Captain James T. Kirk stretched languidly in his command chair, gently waving his fingers through the filtered rays of New Vulcan’s dwarf sun, watching as they streamed through the main viewer and reflected off his gold tunic. The Enterprise was in lazy revolution above the planet, standard orbit, on a routine aid mission- the closest thing to a vacation that Kirk and his crew were likely to get.
One year had passed since the destruction of his First Officer’s homeworld, one year since he’d taken the captain’s oath and inherited command of the Federation’s flagship. There’s no better cure for boredom, Kirk knew, then the knowledge that he was responsible for over 500 innocent lives, never a dull moment in this new chapter of his life. He wouldn’t trade it, not for anything, but it was always nice to have a breather.
He debated the merits of heading over to sickbay. His CMO was off duty soon and Kirk could easily cajole him into a drink or two. Some quality time with his best buddy would give him a chance to let his mind decompress, and the alcohol would hopefully loosen the tension that he’d been holding in his limbs since the beginning of his command.
“Sulu, you have the conn.” Kirk decided, pushing himself up carefully. The stomach wound he’d received last week on Ruowei IV still ached, synthetic skin sore to the touch. Luckily, Kirk was young, “elastic” Bones had called him. He’d snap back.
“Yessir.” His helmsman replied, with a small smile and a mock salute. Kirk smiled back, feeling, not for the first time, incredibly lucky to have this man as part of his crew. The nosedive off the Romulan drill had kindled a friendship between the two of them, and there was no one Kirk trusted more to pilot his ship.
“Before you go, Captain,” piped up Lieutenant Uhura, the Enterprise’s talented communications officer, “there's a message from New Vulcan. It's Spock.” Her lips curved up when she said the Vulcan’s name, a quiet little sign of her adoration.
“Go ahead, lieutenant.” There was no need for formality on such a lax mission, but Kirk made an effort with Uhura, always trying to make up for his past douchebaggery. And maybe he’d never say it out loud, but he wanted her respect- her approval. He wanted to be a good captain for her.
“The commander is requesting that you beam down to the New Vulcan consulate at 1800 hours. There’s a matter he and the High Vulcan Council wish to discuss with you.” Uhura relayed and Kirk inwardly groaned. That would put a limit on the amount of booze he could drink, as being tipsy in front of the consulate was not the way to make a good impression.
“Ok, tell him I'll be there.”
“There is… another thing, captain.” Uhura added. “He mentioned that it's a personal matter.”
“Oh.” Kirk paused. “Personal. Did he say what it's about?”
“No.” Uhura didn't seem all that concerned, but Kirk was interested. He and Spock didn't do ‘personal’. The vulcan was an excellent first officer, dependable and incredibly smart, but they weren't friends. Kirk had kind of thrown away his chance with the ‘emotionally compromised’ incident. He was hoping that the animosity would fade with time and shared experience, but Spock remained closed-off and Kirk didn't really blame him. Looking back, there were probably a hundred better ways to go about attaining command.
He waved goodbye the bridge crew and slowly meandered to sickbay, noting the empty hallways and subsequent absent hum of activity. All non-essential personnel was down on New Vulcan, helping with the rebuilding and agricultural efforts. The second planet of the Simon-316 system was smaller than original Vulcan, but the climates were similar and it was uninhabited, save for a few small fauna. Still, it was a desert planet and inhospitable to most types of farming. The remaining 27 million vulcans would have their work cut out for them if they wished to prosper here. Luckily, they had the help of the Federation and all its resources.
Kirk paused by an observation deck that gave him a good view of the red planet, suspended in space a few thousand feet below him. He wondered if anyone on New Vulcan was looking up at the stars, realizing that the constellations were different in this part of the solar system- that they would never see the old ones again. He wondered if Spock thought about that, imagining how he himself would feel if Earth were suddenly, irreplaceably, gone.
Bones didn't seem surprised to see Kirk when he arrived, just wordlessly popped open the drawer in his desk that held the brandy. Kirk accepted with a grin, mentally eyeing the amount he would be able to drink whilst staying sober. It was a challenge he was used to.
“Oh captain, my captain,” Bones said after a considerable amount of silence, “what's eating you?”
“I have a date with the Vulcan Consulate.” Kirk said it flippantly, but he knew his friend would be able to detect the hidden anxiety.
“Fuckin’ hobgoblins.” The brandy had loosened the doctor’s tongue. “We're supposed to be on leave.”
“Ain't no rest for the wicked.” Kirk quoted. “And we're not on leave. We're supposed to be helping.”
“Well technically, Jim, you're supposed to be on bed rest.” Jerking a thumb towards sickbay, Bones gave him an aggrieved glare. “I know your wound isn't quite healed up yet, and I haven't cleared you for active duty.”
“Luckily I outrank you.” Kirk smirked, although he was tempted to take Bones’ offer and skip out on his meeting with the vulcans. He was too curious about what Spock wanted though.
“In any case, I do believe I should look you over. See how well the skin graft is getting along.” There was a glint in his friend's eye, one that told Kirk he should get away as soon as possible. Bones liked to make his checkups hurt.
“No thanks. My graft is fine.”
The doctor proved him wrong with a quick poke to Kirk’s tender stomach, causing the man to double over with a shout of pain. “What the fuck, Bones!?” Kirk cursed in between wheezes, “Do no harm, my ass.”
“Why don't you get that ass over to a biobed?”
Kirk was about to retort, something about it being against regulation to work whilst drunk, but Bones’ little stunt had caused his abdomen to throb obnoxiously, a steady rhythm that pounded alongside his heartbeat. “I hate you.” He muttered, like a petulant child, and allowed the doctor to drag him behind a privacy curtain.
Freshly showered and sporting new bandages, Kirk stood in the transporter bay, waiting for the familiar tugging sensation as his atoms were separated and instantaneously hurtled through space. It had been a long time since the process bothered him, most of the time he barely noticed. Bones still hated it though. He claimed it wasn't ‘natural’.
Despite Kirk’s protests, Bones refused to let him beam down to the planet alone, so he was in the company of both his friend and a security officer he didn't personally know. Never mind the fact that this was probably the most peaceful mission he could have. Beam down, talk to Spock, beam up. Piece of cake.
They re-materialized in what Kirk recognized as one of the colony's first structures, a tall stone building meant to resemble the Vulcan Embassy, and current residence of the consulate. The captain began sweating almost immediately, impressive heat settling over him like a wet blanket. He wiped his forehead with a grimace, already wishing for another shower.
They were quickly received by an older vulcan who showed them the ta’al. “Greetings, Captain Kirk. I am Selek.”
Kirk echoed the gesture, introducing his travel companions. “Greetings Selek. This is Leonard McCoy, my chief medical officer, and that's ensign Riley.” The security officer struggled to spread his fingers but managed to produce a recognizable salute. Bones didn't bother.
Selek however, in customary vulcan fashion, didn't appear to have an opinion of their efforts, one way or the other. “Commander Spock has been awaiting your arrival.” He spun on his heel and led them through the echoey hallways of the embassy, long black robes trailing behind him like a wedding train.
Kirk saw a few of his crew as they walked, the humans looking just as uncomfortable as their captain felt. There was a sort of oppressive silence that appeared to be part of the building itself, as if the stones had never seen a smile, or heard a laugh. Vulcan seemed built to smother emotion and Kirk was fidgety with more than just curiosity about Spock’s news.
Eventually, Selek led them to a room, chamber-like, with a high table that sat four aged vulcans-- the High Command. Noticeable in his science blues, Spock stood off the side, conversing in hushed tones with a lady who looked absolutely ancient.
When Kirk entered the room all heads quickly snapped up and he got the uncomfortable feeling that he was in some sort of trouble. Bones nudged him in the shoulder and pointed towards the door.
“You couldn't pay me to stay here. Good luck kid.”
“Thanks a lot.” Kirk muttered under his breath. At least Riley didn't look inclined to leave- the guy was new and was probably just happy to be included.
“You received my message.” A soft voice came from his left. Kirk tore his gaze from the receding figure of doctor McCoy, fixing it, instead, on the vulcan who managed to sneak up on him.
“Yeah, hey Spock.” The guy didn't look so hot. Spock had only been on New Vulcan for a couple of hours but already there were dark bags settling under his eyes and by the rigid set of his shoulders, Kirk could tell his first officer was under quite a bit of pressure. “What's with the fanfare?”
If vulcans could look nervous, Spock did. “As stated in my message, there is a matter I must discuss with you.”
“One that involves them?” Kirk gestured to the back of the room. The woman Spock had been talking with had joined the other vulcans, taking a seat in the middle of the long table.
“Yes. And… no.”
“Spit it out, Spock.” Kirk frowned, because he was sweaty, in pain, and tired of being left out of whatever big secret his first officer was hiding.
“Very well.” Taking a breath, Spock clasped his hands behind his back. “I must resign as First Officer and Chief Science Officer aboard the USS Enterprise. It's been made clear by the consulate that my duties are to New Vulcan.”
“What? Why?” Whatever Kirk had been expecting, it certainly wasn't this. “You already told me that you can help your planet more by staying with the Enterprise and conducting these aid missions!”
Spock didn't flinch at Kirk's harsh tone, but his lips pressed together even tighter. “While the aid missions have been immensely helpful towards the growth of the colony, I have been recently informed of a problem that requires my immediate attention.” Spock's tone had a cruel detachment to it as if he were merely discussing the weather, not quitting his job and leaving Kirk alone to deal with commanding the Enterprise.
“What problem’s more important than your duty to Starfleet?”
“I would prefer not to discuss it.”
“Then no. I don't accept your resignation, Spock. Not unless you tell me why.”
The Vulcan looked physically pained as if Kirk were asking him to eat a hamburger or sing a silly song.
“It is a complicated and lengthy matter. Perhaps we should relocate to the Enterprise to continue the conversation.”
“Great idea.” Kirk gritted out, again looking back at the other vulcans who had, so far, been completely silent. “Nice seeing you all.” He called out with a wave. Hopefully, Spock's claim that vulcans didn't understand sarcasm was true.
Bones was milling around outside the room, scowling and fiddling with a small device. Selek was nowhere to be found.
In greeting, Kirk slapped his friend on the back and was only mildly surprised to feel the telltale sting of a hypo needle against his neck. He probably would have been more upset if it wasn't such a regular occurrence. Bones attacked his captain with hypos with the sadistic pattern of a seasoned killer. “Owww?”
“It's dexalin.” The doctor explained with a smirk. “This planet’s a little low on oxygen. Don't want your lungs seizing up on you.”
“Thanks, mom.” Kirk rolled his eyes but he was a little touched that his friend remembered his reaction to dusty environments. His asthma, along with a plethora of other unexplainable allergies, was nothing but a pain in the ass- but ever since he nearly died after eating a strawberry at the academy, Bones had kept a close eye. There wasn't an official list of all the things he had negative reactions to- something like that would probably get him kicked out of Starfleet- but between him and the doctor, they usually managed.
Spock brushed past and took off at a fast clip. “What's up with him?” Bones muttered as he and Kirk hurried to catch up.
“Dunno.” Kirk felt mildly bad about lying to his BFF, but he didn't want to share Spock’s plan to abandon the Enterprise until he could figure out the full story. His first officer better have a damn good reason, but even if he did Kirk wasn't planning on letting him quit. The man may be a laconic pain in the butt, but he was a damn fine commander. The Enterprise needed him.
Compared to New Vulcan, the stale air on the Enterprise felt like a sweet summer breeze. Kirk took several deep breaths before hopping off the transporter pad and heading towards his ready room. His muscles felt tight, adrenaline flooding his system as he wondered which Vulcan it was that had convinced Spock to stay. T’pau probably. She was terrifying enough that even seasoned Starfleet officers would bend to her will. In general, Kirk didn't worry about the Vulcans’ telepathic abilities, but T’pau seemed the sort to dig around in your thoughts and use them to her advantage.
Spock was waiting for Kirk in the ready room, staring out the window with his hands clasped behind his back. There were a few moments of tense silence before Spock began to speak.
“Captain, are you familiar with my half-brother Sybok?”
Whatever Kirk had been expecting the commander to say, it wasn't that. “Um, no. I didn't know you had a brother.”
“He was from my father's first marriage, many years ago. Sybok did not live with my family during my childhood and I have very little memory of him. He was banished from Vulcan when I was quite young.” Spock spoke as if he were reciting from an academic journal rather than recounting the events of his own life. Kirk got the feeling that not many people were privy to Spock’s personal history.
“I didn't know you could get banished from Vulcan. What'd he do? Kill somebody?”
Spock's eyes narrowed a millimeter. “It does not matter. I grew up believing that Sybok was dead. However, I was recently informed that my half-brother survived his banishment and, in fact, had returned to Vulcan quite recently. He died in the explosion like the majority of my race.”
The temperature in the room seemed to drop five degrees, as it always did when Spock brought up the dead. “Sorry,” Kirk said. “But I didn't understand how this relates to your quitting.”
Spock’s shoulders lost their rigidness, and his lips pressed together in a thin line. He was clearly the Vulcan version of extremely upset.
“Sybok is survived by his son, and as the boy’s only living relative I must resign my duties on the Enterprise and remain on New Vulcan to raise him. We have too many orphans already, I cannot abandon the boy.” The words came out quieter, less monotone.
“Oh,” Kirk remembered Uhura’s message. Personal. This was as personal as it got. Spock was still standing by the window as if trying to be as far from Kirk as possible. His face was drained of color.
Kirk shouldn't be surprised. Vulcans were extremely loyal to their families. As much as Spock must hate the idea, he would do what was expected of him.
“I apologize, Captain. I realize this leaves you without a First Officer and short staffed, but it is the only course of action I can take.”
“I don't accept.” Kirk said quickly.
“Your resignation. I don't accept it.”
“Perhaps I have not been clear with you-”
“Oh, no, I understand, Spock. You want to play daddy, that's fine. There are plenty of families with children living on the Enterprise, we have a school and everything.” Kirk was grasping at straws, but he couldn't let Spock leave.
For a second, his first officer looked like he was considering the offer. Then, “It would be illogical to raise a vulcan child on a human ship. Separating the boy from his people in the wake of tragedy would be unkind. Furthermore, I would be unable to provide the boy the appropriate level of care if my primary duty was to the Enterprise. It is useless to debate the matter further, Captain, as I have already considered all possible options.”
Arguing was useless, Spock was too stubborn. Kirk needed a different angle. “Have you met him? Your… nephew, I guess?”
Spock's brows knit together. “Briefly. His name is Hanesh and he is staying with T’pau. He is an unusual child.”
“He was not raised on Vulcan and knows little of our traditions. Sybok did not follow Surak’s teachings and nor did he impart their wisdom on his son. I believe raising him will be a difficult task.”
Kirk must have drunk more with Bones that he'd realized, because all of a sudden, he had an idea. It was one of those on-the-spot, desperate, stupid plans that he specialized in. But it might just keep Spock on board. “What if I help?”
“Help with what, Captain?”
“Raising Hanesh, y’know, with you. On the Enterprise.” It was kinda embarrassing saying it out loud, but once he got going the words kept spilling out. “We usually have alternating shifts anyways. One of us could watch the kid while the other was on duty. I could tutor him too if you're worried about the school being too slow. I could make him do the boring paperwork I hate. It's a great idea. Say it's a great idea.”
Spock said nothing.
“You said raising him would be difficult, think how much easier it would be with both of us.” By this point, he was basically pleading, although he didn't know why. Kirk reminded himself that he and Spock weren't friends. What he was proposing went well beyond friendship territory though, and he could tell Spock was uncomfortable. “We could do a trial run, for the week we’re stationed here. Hanesh can come stay on board and we can see how it goes.”
“I will meditate on it.” Spock finally decided, eyes downcast. He brushed past Kirk, careful not to touch him.
Well, it wasn't a no. Kirk didn't know if that was a good thing or a bad thing. He was beginning to realize the gravity of his suggestion. He basically just volunteered to be a dad. To a Vulcan boy no less. He wondered if he could run after Spock and shout ‘psych!’.
“I need more brandy.”
Bones was Not Happy.
“You're a fuckin’ idiot, Jimmy.”
“It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
“I can't believe you're going to play house with the hobgoblin.”
“He's gonna say no anyway,” Kirk muttered, “so it doesn't matter.” He took a shot, grimacing at the foul, motor oil like taste. “What is this shit?”
Bones glanced at the label. “Saurian.”
They glared at each other, but there wasn't any heat behind it. The alcohol was doing its job and Kirk’s panic was subsiding, morphing into numb acceptance. It wasn’t the worst idea he’d ever had. Nobody’s life was on the line at least. Besides, Vulcan kids were fairly independent- Kirk wouldn’t have to do much at all.
“Ya’know what's funny, Bones?”
“How terrified Spock looked when he told me about his nephew. His eyes got all huge and stuff.”
“That’s not funny, Jimmy. Unexpected fatherhood is pretty darn scary.” The doctor downed the rest his drink in one gulp and pressed a hand to his temple. “And I still think you’re an idiot.”
“Yeah, we’ve established that already.” Kirk’s head was starting to feel fuzzy. “Am I squinting? I feel like I’m squinting.”
“Go to bed, kid.” Bones leaned forward and snatched Kirk’s drink, amber liquid sloshing over both their hands.
“Hey! I wasn’t done.” Kirk pouted. “Gimme.”
“Daddies aren’t allowed to get shitfaced.” Bones said. “And neither are starship captains.”
“Pike would disagree.” Kirk shot back, but really Bones was right. If he was going to act as a father figure, then he needed to be somewhat of a good influence. Drowning his sorrows in a bottle of illegal alcohol was not being a good influence. But… “I’m worried Spock will say no.”
“Do you even want him to say yes? You don’t actually want a kid, Jim.” Bones pointed out.
“I know, but if he says no then he doesn’t trust me.” And shit, these were the types of thoughts that only came out while drunk- the thoughts that Kirk wasn’t even aware he had until he said them.
“I can’t believe I’m saying this, but maybe you should talk to him. Spock may be a pain in the ass but I bet he’s freaking out pretty hard right now.”
“Yeah, no thanks.”
“Jimmy-“ Bones’s face was pinched. “I’m a medical doctor, not a therapist. Talk to the hobgoblin. Besides,” He grinned, “Communication is the most important part of every relationship.”
“Shut the fuck up, McCoy.”
“Who’s the wife, Jimmy? You or Spock? I bet it’s you.”
“Okay, yeah, bye Bones.”