Title: Human Behavior (1/6)
Characters: Spock, Kirk, various including McCoy, Peter Kirk
Rating: T for theme, though I'm probably way over-reacting
Word Count: (this chapter) 4,820
Warnings: Spoilers for Operation - Annihilate!. Reference to theme of Stockholm Syndrome referring to the neurological parasites. References to deleted scenes and script from OA. Speculation for this and the other parts of the arc. Shameless h/c and character exploration. Lack of plot. The usual, in other words. Don't say I didn't warn you. But in all seriousness, death of a loved one is no lighthearted matter, so if you could be triggered by a recent loss, please read with care, and know that you have mine.
Summary: Five human behaviors Spock did not understand, and one that he definitely did understand. Six-shot, revolving around the episode Operation - Annihilate! and all its aftermath. This began as a prompt for my H/C Bingo Card spot of Stockholm Syndrome (which is squicky for me, so I wasn't about to go the usual route with it), and then begged for resolution, which then led to a five-and-one idea, which then morphed into this. I'm not pretending it's anything other than fanservice and H/C; so don't expect perfection or anything resembling it. And yes, from some reviews I've gotten recently, I do need to warn for lack of literary content - so BE VERY AFRAID OF MY SHAMELESS H/C, PPL. Happy?

VI. Stockholm Syndrome

Humanity, as a race, was a most illogical species. Spock had spent many years in an effort to comprehend the subtleties of human communication, the intricacies of its physical and verbal humor, the sense – or lack of it – behind its actions…and had, even now, utterly failed. He simply was unable to grasp the logic behind many of the facets which were characteristic to this most fascinating of species.

Some such quirks, while he did not understand, he found to be amusing, such as Dr. McCoy's habit of snarling at his morning wake-up alarm (which was utterly unable to hear or obey the irate and indeed anatomically impossible demands the physician made of it). Some had a bit of twisted logic behind them, meaning he could at least follow the badly-connected train of thought, such as the reasoning behind the actions of monsters such as Earth's Adolf Hitler, and Tarsus IV's Kodos. Eugenics did hold a sort of warped logic, from the proper point of view; while he certainly did not approve or endorse their actions, he did understand them.

But some human behaviors he either had never encountered, or else had so rarely beheld that they remained utterly incomprehensible to his mind.

This peculiarity was one such behavior.

He had read the Chief Medical Officer's psychological diagnoses and reports on the condition of the inhabitants of Deneva following the satellite-oriented destruction of the neurological parasites which had infested the planet; and when the unfamiliar term popped up periodically in the assessments and psychological evaluations, he desired a more detailed description, and went to Sickbay accordingly to get one.

"Classic Stockholm Syndrome, I'm afraid, Mr. Spock," was the sighed answer to his inquiry, and McCoy's tired eyes looked even more morose. "I've never heard of it directed toward a non-sentient captor but it's nonetheless quite real. A good part of those people down there are actually questioning why we killed those…monsters, like the one that got its teeth into you before we beamed back to the ship."

For the time being, he ignored the fact that the creature did not, in fact, possess teeth; likely, the physician was utilizing a metaphor. "Questioning…the organisms' destruction?"

"Exactly." McCoy slumped down into a chair, uncharacteristically not caring if his exhaustion were evident to his audience. "You should hear the things they're saying," he murmured. "That we basically murdered a whole race of creatures, that the things didn't really mean them any harm, it was their right to survive how they could, that if the colonists just did what the creatures asked that they were taken care of just fine, that they'd lived there for eight months and had learned to live in symbiosis…it's classic case after classic case, Spock. And there's nothin' at this point that we can really do about it. The planet's gonna need a whole team of psycho-therapists, and Starfleet's takin' its sweet time about putting one together."

"I understand what constitutes that mental aberration known as 'Stockholm syndrome,' Doctor, but I cannot comprehend such a mentality itself," he replied frankly, utterly at a loss, and he inwardly shuddered at the memory of what agony the monsters had caused in his own body and mind. Blindness had, truly, been preferable to their influence; even death would have been, after a few more hours. Granted, his pain was due to the fact that he had fought the organisms at every step – possibly if he had submitted, the pain would have vanished, even leaving some sense of euphoria in its place, but still…

"The creatures inflicted such pain that even Vulcan pain management was incapable of conquering it for longer than a few minutes at a time. The creatures have, by the last tally, killed one-third of Deneva's adult population, and one-eighth of its children, primarily those old enough to be of use in the shipyards. How could any intelligent race believe freedom from such mindless torture and complete mental control merits sympathy?"

"Don't ask me to explain the human psyche logically, Spock!" McCoy snapped wearily, rubbing his eyes. "I've got enough problems tryin' to keep one particular player in this whole drama from emotionally compromising himself until we get well away from here!"

"Of course, Doctor," he replied quietly. "I regret disturbing you."

"Spock –" The physician broke off, shook his head. "I'm sorry," he added simply, blue eyes blinking tiredly up at the Vulcan.

"It is quite understandable, Doctor. Please see to it that, once this is over, you take your own prescription and rest appropriately."

"That, Mr. Spock, is an order I will have absolutely no problem obeying."

He was pleased to see some of the tension leave the human's tightly-strung posture, but the unease remained and spread to his own mind as they prepared to beam down to the planet and its highly illogical inhabitants.

Spock had once, under Christopher Pike's command, attended a large-scale wake on Planet R-52 in the Laurentian system; a volcano had suddenly erupted on a Federation science colony, burying nearly half the populated continent's surface area. It had been an immense tragedy, and one he would not soon forget.

But he had never attended one where the dead had numbered so many that their remains had been buried in family plots, due to a simple lack of time to properly embalm and inter each victim. The deceased numbered in the thousands – and what was worse, there were countless victims which had not been buried over the eight months in which the parasites had infested the colony, and were simply in varying stages of decomposition – and rather than hold funerals in the Terran tradition for each, the governor of the colonists had simply declared today a day of memorial for the victims of the parasitic invasion.

Due to the sheer mass of people, the ceremony was only minutes from starting by the time he had made his tortuous way through the crowd to finally squeeze into place beside a green-gold dress uniform, which was wavering back and forth as its wearer uneasily shifted his weight from left to right foot. Jim flicked him a grateful, slightly relieved, look, before that and all other emotions were carefully folded away under a blank, bland mask of professional duty. Spock had seen the transition a few times before, that almost disturbingly east slide from charismatic charm into nothing - and it never failed to remind him of the sun being hidden behind a storm cloud, light disappearing into a black hole - so drastic was the change. The captain's emotional control would do a Vulcan proud.

That fact was not reassuring in the least.

They were standing to the immediate right of the small platform erected for the speakers of the ceremony to stand upon. Governor Schival was to perform the memorial service, with his two Lieutenant-Governors each performing the cultural rituals required by the non-Terran colonists who had died. Schival had asked Captain Kirk to speak as well, and the human could not refuse the request, as the Enterprise had been the ship which discovered the method of destroying the invaders.

Spock was well aware, after lightly brushing his fingertips over the tense muscles of the arm beside him, that Jim was dreading giving the address, the thought of it actually threatening to make him physically ill.

Technically, Spock was not supposed to be standing in the speakers' box.

He was not about to leave it, and naturally no one would dare to ask Commander Spock of the Enterprise to vacate his position. He, as the Terran saying went, would like to see them try.

The area was filled with a mass of milling colonists, and after cautiously dropping his mental shields a fraction he was slightly alarmed at the rampant variety of emotions which assailed his telepathic senses. Pain and grief were to be expected, disbelief and shock as well, but this undercurrent of bitterness, anger…hatred, in some cases, was cause for concern.

The momentary lowering of his barriers had immediately indicated to him the precise locations of the Enterprise crew which had beamed down in a show of support for their Captain; he knew without looking where McCoy was standing with Nurse Chapel and the boy, Peter Kirk, as well as knowing exactly where the rest of the command chain and crew were stationed at strategic points around the location. He refrained of course from any outward display, but resolved in a mental note to commend Mr. Scott for his intelligence and foresight in directing the crew to fan out with a sensible number of Security personnel, to be prepared in case of any disquiet arising.

The dropping of his shields had also alerted him to the fact that his captain was not faring as well as he wished his crew to believe. In the six days which had transpired since their first approach to Deneva, he was well aware the captain had not had more than three hours' sleep at a stretch. Kirk had lost his brother and sister-in-law, and had had to face the idea of losing more than that if he made the wrong choice regarding the organisms. In the last forty-eight hours, Kirk and the Enterprise had made runs to the other planets in the system, backtracking the spread of insanity which had sent them to the sector in the first place, and placing satellites in orbit around the infected planets.

They had returned to Deneva this planet's afternoon for the memorial ceremony, after which George and Aurelan Kirk's remains would be placed in the memorial park along with other victims whose living relations wished that to be their remembrance.

He raised his shields again reluctantly, for it was unethical to not do so, but kept a strict eye upon his captain. Schival's address droned on for slightly longer than was, in his opinion, in good taste given the crowd's mixed attitudes, but he could not fault the man for wishing the ceremony to be as thorough as possible for the families of the victims of the tragedy. The afternoon sun's intense rays beat down on the area, and he remained alert to the milling colonists' increasingly unhappy tempers which resulted from the rise in temperature.

James Kirk's face was uncomfortably flushed above the stiff collar of his dress uniform by the time he was to speak on behalf of the Federation – not as a grieving family member, he could not even be that today, but as an ambassador of the organization which sent the colonists to Deneva in the first place in the name of Science and Exploration.

Throughout this first hour of the service, the captain had been utterly silent, and had never once looked at Spock. Once, and only once, when the governor had mentioned that those who had died were those who, through sheer strength of will, had fought the most gallantly against the organisms, did Kirk stiffen, fists clenched tightly at his sides. Spock edged slightly closer, enough that their opposing shoulders brushed against each other with the satin rustle of dress fabric, and the rigid tension had faded slightly in the human after he had done so.

But now, it was Kirk's turn to speak, as a Starfleet representative and as the man responsible for providing the method of killing the parasites which had destroyed the colonists who were being memorialized today. Kirk mounted the platform amid the expectant silence which followed the governor's announcement, and turned to face the crowd at loose parade rest, his face composed and calm, sunlight glinting off the well-deserved medals he reluctantly wore on occasions such as these.

Only Spock, closer to the platform and at the precise angle to clearly view, could see that the man's hands were clenched so tightly behind his back that they were actually shaking.

"Ex astris, scientia," Kirk spoke up suddenly, and the murmurs that had rippled through the crowd as recognition set in died down. "From the stars, knowledge. That is the creed by which we of Starfleet live, you know that as well as I do. While not all of you have graduated from Starfleet Academy, you are nonetheless here, on this planet, in this star system, for one united, grand purpose – to gain knowledge from the stars."

The captain's face lightened slightly, as he warmed to a topic close to his heart. "That is why all of us – Captain, Midshipman, Scientist, Colonist – why we are all standing here, today. That is the reason for which you decided to colonize this world; to further a dream that is, to many underdeveloped worlds, just that – only a dream. And dreams, ladies and gentlemen, are worth living for."

Kirk's eyes glinted, and his voice dropped to a more subdued tone. "They are also, sadly, worth dying for."

An unhappy murmur flickered through the crowd, and Spock saw the human's hands clench tighter behind his back.

"It is a less glamorous part of this business, yes – but it is unfortunately true," he carried on, the powerful tone which Spock had seen make nations bow to the inexorable force that was James T. Kirk ringing clearly in the courtyard. "We are not out here to be safe, we are not out here to perform cautious experiments and never seek new worlds and new life forms. We are not here," and his head snapped up in stiff attention, "to risk nothing, and therefore to go down into history, as nothing."

Spock had before seen this particular human sway an entire delegation of superior beings by the sheer power of his oratorical ability, had watched in stupefied mystification as this one small human could back down beings three times his size. But even such a dynamic personality could not fully control the disturbed mental processes of an unstable mob, and he felt the warning prickle of danger begin to flick gently at the back of his telepathic consciousness.

Kirk stood at ramrod-straight attention, his eyes raking the crowd. "Planetary colonization is a risky venture, as we are all aware – but it is an integral part of this expansion into the stars, the explorations that centuries ago our people only dreamed of! Your people who have been lost in this…catastrophe, are as much heroes of our cause as are any Federation officers who fall in battle aboard their starships." The captain's eyes softened, and his gaze flickered briefly over to his wide-eyed nephew standing well within McCoy's protective grip. "The Federation has issued its deepest condolences to those of you who have…lost family members, and friends, in the wake of this tragedy. They are the true heroes of this battle, not we who found the means of disposing of the threat."

Spock made no move, but mentally jumped to alert status as a wave of human anger washed threateningly against his shields. Fortunately, Kirk seemed to sense the change in the crowd – he had always been perceptive of moods, part of his skill as a leader – and simply stood for a moment in a silent salute of respect for the dead, before retreating to his place beside the raised platform, descending with the bland captain's mask still firmly affixed in place.

Governor Schival and his Lieutenant-Governors finished the memorial service, and at least Spock was somewhat relieved to see that while it was obvious something was wrong with the crowd, none of them had so little respect for the dead that they would destroy the solemnity of the memorial.

What happened afterwards was another story.

Once the ceremony had concluded, the family members who wished the cremated remains of their deceased to be sprinkled in the memorial park were permitted inside the roped-off area, to wander as they wished along the flower-sprinkled paths and softly rushing fountains, to select the location they felt best for their loved ones' final resting-place.

Spock watched, vacillating in uncertainty, as Peter Kirk walked up to take his place next to his uncle, carefully carrying a simple silver urn containing the remains of George and Aurelan Kirk. The Governor had specified that only family members were permitted into the park, simply for sake of space, but the look of barely-veiled panic he saw in his captain's expression was a plea for help if he ever saw one.

McCoy's extremely pointed glare, which had it been capable would have burned a hole through his head by now, added the impetus for him to step cautiously up to the two.

"H'lo, Mr. Spock," Peter Kirk greeted him, subdued but obviously not displeased with his presence; he and the child had had several long talks while confined to Sickbay following their recovery from their respective treatments.

He gravely inclined his head in greeting, and turned a questioning look toward his captain as the child moved toward the entrance of the park.

"Sir, the governor's request for family members only was quite clear –"

"Spock." The human was breathing shallowly, hands clenched tightly behind him in an effort to hide the fact that his carefully-strung composure, so rigid and unyielding for nearly a week, was in danger of crumbling. Kirk looked up at him finally, swallowed hard, and spoke. "Spock, you're the closest thing I have left to a brother, now. I don't care what the Governor said. I…" and it was obvious how much the admission chafed the human's pride, "…I need you. I don't like the look of some of this crowd." The man's eyes were worried, tense, reflecting his own unease. "If something gets out of hand, I'm going to need your level head, because I'm not exactly at my best right now."

He would never refuse such a request, even had he ever wished to do so. "As you wish," he replied gently, and received a look of almost pathetic gratitude before they hurried to catch up with the child.

The park was quiet as befitted its subject matter, the only sounds being quiet conversation and the distant sound of rushing water from somewhere behind the privacy hedges. Even the Denevan birds were rather quiet, trilling gently in the trees and bushes and occasionally chirping to break the stillness. The park itself was an agriculturally prolific area, filled with many kinds of varying-hued flora, and held many benches and secluded areas for privacy, as befitted its intentions.

The two humans were silent, the child looking about him with wide, sad eyes, and Kirk himself walking almost blindly, eyes downcast and posture so tense it seemed one wrong move might cause him to snap entirely. Spock was silent, out of respect for their behavior and also because he simply had no idea what might aid either of them; his earlier efforts aboard ship had been received well enough by the child but his captain had rejected them quite emphatically, almost uncharacteristically so.

Peter Kirk was on his way to dealing with the tragedy; his uncle was nowhere even close.

Finally the child stopped under the shade of a flowering tree, the ground carpeted with what Spock recognized as something quite similar to Terran cherry-blossoms. Peter cocked a questioning eye up at his uncle, and Kirk smiled for the first time.

"You remember the farm, then? I'd have thought you were too young," he spoke, lifting his head and closing his eyes as the wind brought down a dusting of silky petals to shower them.

"I 'member you falling out of the tree and Dad screaming his head off 'cause he thought you broke your neck," the child retorted, grinning despite the sadness evident in the blue eyes as he set the urn gently on one of the small stone shelves obviously placed under the tree for that purpose.

Spock silently edged himself backward several paces, ready to aid if needed but other than that only listening in silence.

The captain's face relaxed slightly as he chuckled. "Your mother nearly murdered me when she found out I'd taken you tree-climbing in the orchard. She was a mean woman with a wooden spoon."

The child giggled, and then the amusement faded slowly, painfully, from his expression, no doubt with the realization that he would never again see such a thing. The tousled head drooped, a lock of unruly red hair flopping down over his forehead, and for the first time Spock saw the boy begin to cry silently, one small fist scrubbing in helpless grief at his eyes as his breath hitched painfully.

He watched as James Kirk knelt in the petal-strewn grass in front of the child, careless of his dress uniform pants becoming stained with damp earth, and pulled the boy close, hugging him tightly as the child's tears finally came. The captain's face was carefully blank, betraying nothing, and while Spock recognized the necessity of remaining strong for the grieving child he could not help but see that it was not just Peter Kirk who needed such release.

Unsure of what exactly he should do, and unwilling to further eavesdrop, he edged slightly away from the tree to stand in the path, aimlessly examining and cataloguing the bright green insectoid which landed with a short click of hard-shelled wings on the front of his tunic.

Then he heard voices, their volume too loud in his opinion for such a sacred place, approaching through a copse of small elm-like trees.

He set the curious insect on a broad leaf of a nearby bush, and turned to regard the newcomers – a trio of men in the standard yellow or salmon-colored jumpsuits which were the clothing for the scientists with which George Samuel Kirk had worked. Perhaps they were merely coming to bury a fellow scientist, then, who had no family…but they carried nothing which would house the remains.

He could not specify a reason, illogical as it was, but he felt a sudden unease, and turned on instinct to see that Kirk and the child were still unaware of the men's approach. He had heard Jim say once that something 'made his skin crawl,' but had never understood the feeling until now, the unease that warned him to move himself to block the path, instead of standing courteously to one side as he had been.

Within twenty-three seconds, the three men had reached the path, and were looking at him in some surprise.

"Who're you?" the foremost asked, small dark eyes glittering at him in mild hostility.

The speaker was swatted on the back of the head by the second human, a slightly more intelligent-looking creature with blond hair and a wary expression. "He's Captain Kirk's Vulcan First Officer, Charlie. Don't be such an idiot."

Spock heartily agreed with the command, but did not say so.

"Commander, we're looking for Captain Kirk," the second man said, posing it as a question instead of the statement it was.

"The Captain is currently with his nephew, paying his last respects to his deceased brother and sister-in-law." Spock regarded the men warily, for it was obvious they were not family members and as such he had no idea how they had managed to get in the park, much less find one man among so many.

"Still?" the third human spoke, looking bored. "How long does it take?"

Spock refused to respond to the rude inquiry; encouraging such idiocy by response was foolishness.

The first human edged to the left, his progress blocked by a thick hedge, and tried to see around the Vulcan's unmoving figure. "Look, Commander, let's be reasonable; we don't have a lot of time here before we have to get back to cleaning up the lab, and I want to ask Kirk a few things," he said.

"Whatever they might be, I am certain they will wait until Captain Kirk is finished with his private business." And if he placed a bit too much emphasis on captain and private, he could not find it in himself to regret the tiny flare of human irritation. Even a Vulcan had limits.

The men scowled, and for an instant something chilled, clammy, unreasonable poked against his mental shields; something was not right with this man's mental signature. He tensed instinctively. "Perhaps you could relay your questions through me, and the captain will return his answers when he is able to do so," he suggested.

The humans seemed to entirely miss the icy edge in his tone, for they only looked angry. "Well sure, if you just want to ask him why he decided to kill off thousands of those creatures we've been living with for all these months!" The speaker, Charlie, had raised his voice to an unacceptable level. Spock briefly contemplated the diplomatic repercussions for nerve-pinching a Federation scientist in a planet's burial park.

The second man spoke up, earnestly. "They weren't really hurting anyone, unless you were too stupid to cooperate with them. Once we understood them and wanted to help, they didn't do anything to us. You people shouldn't have just destroyed them all!"

Spock felt a brief surge of sickness at the thought that this reason was why these men were still alive, and stronger, nobler men like Sam Kirk were dead; a lack of will had ensured survival, and those strong enough to fight what was happening to them had died for their efforts.

He was dismayed to hear footsteps on the path behind him; Jim had no doubt heard the raised voices.

"Is there a problem here, Mr. Spock?" The captain's voice sounded in his ear, calm and coolly disinterested, but he was not deceived. No smaller footsteps had accompanied the man; he must have instructed the child Peter to remain behind at the tree.

He shifted slightly so that Jim could see, but not enough that the captain could move in front of him on the narrow path; he was going to remain a barrier between these two forces.

"Captain Kirk?"

Kirk eyed the human with a narrowed gaze. "Yes?"

"We worked with your brother, George," the second man offered, more diplomatic than Charlie had been thus far.

"And?" Kirk's expression did not change; still in place remained the cool mask of a diplomat, the serene façade of an unruffled Federation representative.

"I think you ought to know, those creatures weren't really trying to hurt us, Captain."

"George just couldn't understand them, wouldn't do what they asked us to do – that's why they killed him," the third man added, oblivious to the fact that the captain's face was slowly leeching color as he spoke. "If he had just stopped fighting them, they wouldn't have killed him."

"They didn't deserve to be exterminated like some pest infestation!" Charlie interjected irritably, glaring in unveiled hostility at the captain.

Spock heard the shallow inhalation behind him, felt the man tense to the point that he would certainly snap in another moment's time, would do or say something he would certainly regret later.

He smoothly stepped fully in front of Kirk, interposing himself between the mentally disturbed scientists and his captain. "Your concerns are duly noted, gentlemen; but this is not the time and place to discuss them," he intoned in what he had been told by a well-meaning Ensign Chekov was a tone that could make junior officers…lose control of their bodily functions. "Should you feel Starfleet need be informed of your views, you may submit them through the proper channels via the proper methods."

"Now look, Mr. Spock, we just –"

"This interview is concluded, gentlemen." And Surak forgive him for the menace he allowed to seep into the words (and the slight telepathic shove of rageangerprotectiveness he sent their direction), but the efforts were successful.

The men gaped, open-mouthed, and then fled along the path back into the trees, toward the entrance.

He stood, watchful of their return, and in those ten seconds mentally composed a report to forward to McCoy regarding this deplorable state of mental instability known as Stockholm Syndrome, until he could no longer hear their footsteps among the trees.

Then, he was somewhat startled to feel a sudden warm pressure on a small area of his back, just below his shoulder, for a brief instant. A small, despairing sigh fluttered into the air.

James Kirk had slumped forward to for just a moment rest his forehead against the cool fabric of his First's dress uniform, and Spock could feel in that brief contact the gratitude and relief that sang through the human's weary mind. Then a moment later the man had straightened up again, all exhaustion carefully shelved in the fact of professionalism.

"Thank you, Mr. Spock," the human said quietly, and then returned to where he had left his nephew under the blossoming pseudo-cherry tree.

To terrify those who disturbed the well-being of his captain was only logical; thanks were, therefore, unnecessary.

Besides, he reflected with something as close to regret as a Vulcan could be permitted to approach, he had done nothing that would truly help; a state which he vowed to rectify in the near future.