When Cadet James Kirk joined the xenolinguistics club, Spock had not expected much from the impetuous human. The cadet had spent most of the first 10.6 minutes of the meeting engaging other cadets in conversation of a noticeably sexual nature.
Urging Kirk on to a more appropriate topic had been unsuccessful. “I don’t understand why tongues aren’t relevant to xenolinguistics, Professor,” Kirk had replied. “We use them to speak.”
“The physiology of the human tongue is not our current topic of discussion, Cadet.”
Kirk leaned forward. “How about the Vulcan tongue?” His face loomed two millimeters beyond the personal boundary space Spock preferred to have around him when among more tactile species.
“The Vulcan tongue also has no relevance to our discussion about the vocal patterns of Cynarians, who, in fact, possess no tongues.”
The edges of Kirk’s mouth lifted in what Spock believed humans called a smirk. A puff of air escaped from his lips, lifting the hair from Spock’s bangs by 3 millimeters. “Too bad, I was really looking forward to getting to know it better.”
Spock lifted a single eyebrow. “Please be seated, Cadet.”
With a shrug of his shoulders and another sigh, this time 2.3 seconds longer, Kirk moved himself from Spock’s vicinity, and chose a seat next to Uhura. While Spock felt the tension ease from his shoulders with Kirk’s departure, the opposite effect was occurring between Uhura’s eyebrows.
After observing this episode, and three of a similar nature, Spock assumed the cadet had joined the club to persuade one of the members to engage in sexual congress with him. Perhaps the cadet he lusted for specialized in linguistics and Kirk was attempting to show a similar interest with the means to impress. Spock had noticed in his anthropological study of human courting rituals that similar interests between two pre-bonded couples were an asset to the development of a relationship. For example, his superior officer, Captain Pike, had married his first officer, both of who shared hobbies such as boxing, martial arts and other forms of combat, which were often practiced upon each other. Both parties also engaged in unusual conversation and battles of wit that only seemed humorous to one another. While serving with them aboard Pike’s ship as his science officer, Spock had found the development of their relationship unprofessional, yet fascinating.
It was also possible that Kirk had an obsessive interest in the humanoid tongue. His observations on the muscle were not restricted to the six humans in the club, or the sole Vulcan, but were also directed at the single Orion, Gaila Vro. While others had ignored his comments or rebuffed them, Vro encouraged Kirk. At the end of that first meeting, they left the classroom together laughing about something Spock had failed to grasp the meaning of. If Vro was the cadet Kirk hoped to impress by joining the club, his efforts had likely succeeded.
Kirk’s obscene and disruptive conversation continued during the second meeting and the third. From the way they placed their seats together, thigh against thigh, Kirk’s knee pressing against Vro’s, her hand moving up Kirk’s knee, Spock predicted the two cadets had decided to court each other. Orions must place high value on one’s familiarity with tongues. Spock noted this away is his eidetic memory for later study.
“I can’t keep my eyes off of you,” Kirk murmured, placing his hand on top of Gaila’s. She moved to whisper something in his ear. Kirk grinned in response.
The display was uncomfortably intimate.
This week, Spock had chosen to focus their discussion on Klingon linguistics. As Cadet Uhura was the only member who had professed a middling knowledge of Klingon, Spock thought the subject would prove a suitable challenge. He had given the group copies of a Klingon opera to listen to and translate. Due to their lack of skill in the language, Spock was not expecting much success. However, the exercise would test their focus, while immersing the cadets in a different ethnic art form that highlighted many aspects of Klingon cultural norms and values.
Cadets Endilev, Atwood, Woo, Uhura and Vro had shared their translations from Klingon into standard. As Spock expected, Uhura was the only one who translated more than a few stanzas correctly. Most had managed to grab only a few sentences from the piece after a single listening.
Kirk was glancing around and tapping at his PADD erratically. “Crap. Were we only supposed to listen to the opera once before translating the thing?”
“An exact number was not stated,” Spock answered. “You were welcome to listen to the piece as many times as you wished. It is an excellent example, in musical and dramatic form, of how Klingons establish their social hierarchy based on battle prowess.”
“That’s a relief,” Kirk let out a long breath and shifted in his seat, leaning back and crossing his legs. “I must have listened to that thing around thirty times. I couldn’t get a single word out of it during the first few. Those drum or gong things that kept going off were really distracting and when the singers are screeching and hollering, it’s hard to tell what they’re really saying behind all the screeching and hollering.” He glanced at everyone around the room with a smile. “And I didn’t want to be the only idiot with nothing translated.” He laughed.
Spock lifted an eyebrow. Truthfully, he had predicted Kirk would listen to the opera once and come to the meeting with nothing translated. Or abandon the whole project in favour of engaging Vro’s company. He had misjudged Kirk’s attention span.
“Your dedication to the task given is commendable. Please share your translations with us.”
“Well, I didn’t get much, but…” Kirk swiped a finger across his PADD, “during the first part, the main guy, you know, the one with a really deep voice mourning the death of his brother…” Kirk read three Klingon phrases from his PADD, his pronunciation barely comprehensible, and filled with dramatic asides on the characters’ motivations. “Then, after his crazy solo—couldn’t get anything during that part, the guy was yelling too quickly—he says something like, ‘You have no honour, I will avenge my brother!’” Kirk slapped his chest dramatically. “For the rest, I got only a few words here and there.” After reading some more translations from his PADD and speaking the accompanying Klingon, Kirk looked up, his eyes darting to Spock’s. “Uhh, is that right?”
“Your translations are, essentially, correct. However, the protagonist’s wife is named Durani, not Kaloth. Kaloth is his sister.”
“Whoops,” Kirk exclaimed with another grin. Spock did not understand the cadet’s pleasure over making a mistake. Another human quirk, perhaps.
Kirk did not have an ear for communications—deciphering only the plot’s basic essence after listening to the opera thirty times, verified this. Nevertheless, Spock was impressed with Kirk’s dedication to what was meant to be a simple aside project for the cadets between the daily demands of their credit coursework.
Spock did not want to be impressed, but he irrefutably was. He had underestimated the cadet.
Kirk continued to show resilience in the face of his failings during the next four club meetings. Spock assigned the cadets to translate an Andorian short fiction piece, a Tellarite communicator manual and a Gorn poem. As usual, Kirk’s translations lacked finesse, his memory requiring continual repetitions to remember the most basic vocabulary. However, he enthusiastically took part in group discussions, asked more questions than even Uhura, Spock’s most promising pupil, and showed an insatiable curiosity about the cultures of other species. He also volunteered to be treasurer for the club. Spock wondered when the cadet slept. Unlike Vulcans, humans required several hours of unconscious rest every night, yet Kirk’s energy appeared limitless.
Kirk approached Spock as he was heading out the door after their fourth meeting, and walked into step beside him. “Thanks for sticking with me, Professor. I really appreciate it.”
Spock turned to Kirk. “We are not ‘stuck’ together. No adhesive substance has been applied to our bodies and twelve inches of distance remains between us.”
Kirk smiled and took a step closer. “How many inches now?”
Spock raised an eyebrow. “5.6. Are you testing the accuracy of my ability to measure distance, Cadet?”
Chuckling, Kirk shook his head. “Just having fun. What I really mean though is thanks for answering all my questions and dealing with my crappy language skills. And for not telling me to shut up or, you know, to stop interrupting all the time.”
“I am an instructor of communications. It is my job to answer students’ academic queries and to develop their knowledge in alien languages and culture. No thanks are required.”
“But still, thanks.” Kirk patted Spock on the back. A brief touch, the impact dulled by clothing, yet the chaos of human emotion that echoed within that single graze unnerved him. Spock stepped to the right to resume their original twelve inch distance. Kirk abruptly clutched his hand to his side and then moved it to rub the back of his neck. “Sorry,” he breathed. “Bad habit.”
Although the cadet had been remiss touching a Vulcan without permission, Spock illogically desired to put Kirk at ease. “I have been gratified by your enthusiasm for alien cultures. Your queries during meetings have enabled productive discussion. There is no need for you to,” he paused, “shut up.” Praise was illogical in this situation. Spock moved his hands behind his back, clutching his fingers together with gratuitous force.
Kirk’s cheeks flushed from his regular pale tan to a light pink. Spock cocked his head to the side, fascinated by the sudden pigment change. “Oh, well, happy to help. This stuff is pretty interesting. Can’t wait to get out there,” Kirk flung his hand in a northerly direction, “and actually see and hear it all.”
Like his Klingon pronunciation, the cadet required assistance in improving the clarity of his native tongue. “I assume when you say, ‘out there,’” Spock replied, “you are referring to vacuum space, and planets that are not part of the human colonies.”
“Perfect translation, Professor.” Kirk smiled.
Spock tried not to be amused. “Human colloquialism is an interest of mine. I am gratified to see my studies are ‘paying off.’”
“You know,” Kirk replied, “If you need anyone to study humanisms with, I’d be happy to help. It’d be my way of saying thanks for all your help in the club.”
“I already stated that no thanks or reciprocation is required. I am only doing my duty as an academy professor.”
Kirk fidgeted with his fingers, rubbing a thumb back and forth across his palm. Spock’s eyes were drawn to the movement for several seconds before he glanced away. “Sure, whatever you say,” Kirk murmured. “But, the offer stands if you ever change your mind. Who else can you learn human stuff from better than an actual living breathing human?”
Spock was growing unusually restless. The cadet’s logic, however, was sound. “Your offer has been noted, and your reasoning is logical. I will think on it.”
“Cool.” Kirk grinned.
Their conversation had come to its natural conclusion, yet Kirk remained by Spock’s side as he walked toward lecture hall number three for his afternoon class. Kirk, as a command major, was not one of his pupils. It was almost as if, as Kirk had previously joked, they were indeed joined.
Spock came to a halt. So did Kirk.
Turning toward Kirk, Spock lifted a questioning eyebrow. “Do you require anything else, Cadet?”
Kirk rubbed his neck again. Perhaps he had strained it while reading the Gorn poems Spock had assigned for today’s meeting. The cadet had an unbalanced posture and was prone to slouching. “No. Well…” Kirk trailed off. “Thought I’d walk with you to class. I got permission from Pike to sit in on one of your classes.”
Spock’s eyebrow dropped. “I was not informed of this.”
“I’m informing you now.” Kirk lifted his shoulders. “Is it a problem?”
Spock could think of no logical reason to refuse the cadet. There were enough seats in the classroom, and today’s class would prove useful to Kirk’s unpolished Klingon. “Do you not have other classes to attend, or studies to pursue?” Spock asked. “You are enrolled in the accelerated command track, are you not?”
“Yeah, I am. But no classes at the moment and I can finish up my homework tonight.” Another movement of Kirk’s shoulders. “I figured, if I want to get a captaincy, I should know how to do a little of everything, or how else will I know my crew are doing their jobs right,” Kirk opened and closed his right eye. “That’s why I joined the xenolinguistics club, to get some communications experience. Could prove useful in diplomatic missions and the club is more fun than studying a Klingon dictionary in my room alone.”
“I see.” Spock realized he had indeed misjudged Kirk. His desire to join the club had been academic in nature and for the betterment of his command career. “You are welcome to join my class today. We will be analyzing your most problematic language, Klingon. Practicing the speech among your more proficient peers would prove beneficial to your study.”
Kirk snorted, a most strange response, more suited to that of an Earth pig. “You’re kind of a hard ass, Professor, but I like it.”
Spock felt the temperature rise in his cheeks and willed it back to normality, stabilizing his mental shields. “Your time would be more valuably spent improving your Klingon pronunciation instead of evaluating the density of my posterior.” He continued in the direction of his classroom, Kirk by his side, trotting to keep up. Spock glanced at the cadet from the corner of his eye and observed Kirk’s grin expand by approximately 5.7 millimeters.
Surely there were more promising individuals Spock could observe. The academy was filled with ambitious young cadets who also possessed intelligence, dedication and aesthetically pleasing features. Yet, Kirk fascinated him, however illogical the reasoning. As Kirk had stated to Gaila during a club meeting, loud enough for all to hear, which belied the intimate nature of their conversation, Spock similarly could not ‘keep his eyes’ off of Kirk.
Spock's natural curiosity prevailed when Kirk was around. He continuously found his eyes drawn to the cadet when, normally, he would be focused on other matters or his pupils as a whole. After the first class, Kirk sat in on three more of Spock’s lectures. For a human who managed several interests at the same time, and courted the attention of multiple humanoids, the cadet’s eyes had no difficulty fixating singularly on Spock during all three lectures. Kirk’s eyes possessed similar attributes to magnetic substances. They were a most troubling distraction, especially during a class filled with fifty eight other students.
Kirk’s magnetic quality continued outside the classroom. He had the uncanny ability of appearing where Spock did not expect to see him and drawing Spock’s focus immediately. Even if Kirk was fully immersed in conversation with one of his fellow cadets, he would stop to turn in Spock’s direction, grin, wave and call out.
“Hey, Professor! Fancy meeting you here.” Kirk would then proceed to introduce his current companion by name and his or her relationship status to Kirk. The term ‘friend’ was often used.
At first, Kirk would introduce Spock as professor or commander, his official titles. After a while, Kirk switched his address to: “this is my new friend, Spock.”
“I am not your friend.” Spock replied the first instance this occurred.
Kirk slapped him on the back, taboos about casual touch with Vulcans once again forgotten, and laughed. “Oh, Spock, you cold fish!”
“Although my body temperature is on average 7.6 degrees lower than a human’s, I am not a water-dwelling vertebrate, but a Vulcan.”
Kirk laughed audibly in response while Kirk’s companion at the time glanced at Spock nervously and shifted away.
Despite Spock’s correction, Kirk continued to introduce Spock to his companions as a friend. Deciding it was a waste of valuable time to disagree since this only enabled Kirk’s stream of illogical remarks, Spock yielded to Kirk’s labeling and reminded himself that humans were naturally an irrational species.
Occasionally, Gaila would be in one of Kirk’s rotation of companions. Spock could not establish whether the two cadets were in an exclusive romantic relationship, sporadically romantic in the fickle way of humans, or polygamous. Kirk appeared overly friendly with other women and men. Spock had also observed similar behavior from Gaila. For example, he had once caught her engaged in a noisy locking of mouths with an Andorian cadet in a public hallway. Spock had looked away immediately and continued on his way.
Before being introduced to Kirk’s group of acquaintances, Spock had begun to speculate that Kirk had a singularly intense focus on Spock in particular. This decadent thought was ultimately dismissed. Kirk was obviously a social creature that valued the attention of various species and personalities.
As he did every semester, Captain Pike requested Spock’s assistance with a rescue simulation involving teams of two retrieving crew members from vacuum space after their shuttle’s hull was breached during a Klingon attack. The simulation was meant to test command candidates’ responses under extreme and unexpected conditions, such as teleportation and equipment failure. Each participant was teamed with a commissioned officer to attempt the rescue.
Calculating previous circumstantial meetings with the cadet, Spock was not surprised to discover who he had been teamed with.
“Guess we’re working together. What a coincidence.” Kirk was attaching the clamps on his environmental suit.
“Indeed.” Spock was beginning to wonder about the validity of these coincidental meetings.
Pike approached them, placing an arm around Kirk’s shoulder. “Take it easy, kid. No broken bones this time. Remember, it’s just a sim. No one’s going to die.”
Spock raised an eyebrow, and turned to Kirk. “You injured yourself during the last simulation?”
Kirk glanced away, brushing a hand across the back of his neck. “Nothing serious. Bones fixed me up pretty quick.”
“That’s what you call nothing serious?” Pike asked, quirking an eyebrow at Kirk. “Knocking out a wall with an overloaded phaser and getting your leg caught under a collapsed warp core?”
Spock frowned. Being partnered with Kirk could prove dangerous.
“Do your have to do that eyebrow thing too, sir?” Kirk glanced between Spock and Pike. “Both of you looking at me like that—it’s making me nervous. Is this what happens when you spend a whole year stuck in a spaceship with someone?”
“Stop deflecting, Kirk.” Pike crossed his arms. “Keep it simple this time. I know running in guns blazing is your usual style, but sometimes it can’t hurt to think things through a bit. Spock can help you with that little problem of yours.”
“Does your wife get jealous when she sees you fawning over Spock?”
Pike grabbed Kirk’s ear and tugged, causing a resulting wince on Kirk’s face. “If you’ve got nothing intelligent to say, best keep your mouth shut, kid.” He turned to Spock. “Sorry for sticking you with this deadbeat, Spock. But if anyone can whip some sense into him, it’s you.”
“I do not believe whipping is permitted by Starfleet, even for academic purposes, Captain.”
“Too bad,” Pike sighed. “But, I’m sure you can figure out an alternative for Kirk.”
Spock nodded, placing his hands behind his back. “It will not be an easy task, sir. However, I will endeavor to keep the cadet away from overloaded phasers and other hazardous objects.”
Kirk lifted his eyes skyward. “Two hard asses against one. Are you kidding me?”
Pike squeezed Kirk’s shoulder. “Good luck, Jim.”
After Pike left for the test command center and was out of hearing distance, Kirk nudged his elbow against Spock’s side. “If you’re into the whipping thing, I’d let you do it,” he whispered. “Just saying.”
Spock took a step back. “I am not ‘into the whipping thing.’ Vulcans are pacifists.”
“Sure,” Kirk smirked. “but if you ever change your mind, I’m here.”
Spock took another step away from Kirk. “It would be logical to proceed to the briefing room, so we may become familiar with our mission.” Spock moved away in the direction Pike had taken, Kirk, regrettably, barely a step behind.
The mission was similar to the one Spock had participated in last year with slight modifications. He expected no complications—at least, he had until his current partner had entered the equation. Although Spock had come to admire aspects of Kirk’s personality, Pike’s comments on the cadet’s spontaneous actions in previous simulations gave Spock pause. He would have to be diligent and keep Kirk under control lest injuries occur, specifically to his more fragile human partner.
“Spock, Kirk. You’re up.” Pike motioned them forward to the holosuite entrance.
“Don’t worry, Spock. I got your back.” Kirk attached the helmet of his environmental suit, and lifted a thumb in Spock’s direction.
Spock stared at him. “That is what I am afraid of.”
Kirk grinned as they entered the holosuite, the deck of a Starfleet recovery shuttle forming under their feet. “Isn’t fear an emotion?”
Spock was prevented from replying by Pike’s voice notifying them that he would be opening the airlock that would propel them into a simulation of vacuum space in, “3, 2, 1.”
Spock braced himself. The sudden pressure and weightlessness of vacuum space, even simulated, was always uncomfortable. Over the comm speaker that linked him to Kirk’s, Spock could hear the cadet gasp and a fifty four percent increase in his breathing rate. Spock glanced over at Kirk. Even though his breathing demonstrated an accelerated heart rate, likely caused by fluctuations in the human’s nervous system in unnatural conditions, Kirk appeared calm, his eyes clear and focused behind the glass of his helmet. Kirk returned Spock’s glance and nodded.
“Spock, you check for survivors in the breached shuttle and I’ll gather up the lost puppies.”
Spock reached for the propulsion on his environmental suit. The purpose of the simulation was to give cadets command experience. Although he was to play at being Kirk’s subordinate, Spock was already beginning to consider mutiny. “There were no canines on the shuttle’s crew manifest. As we were informed during the mission briefing, the crew consists of three humans one Orion and two Andorians.”
Kirk made an unintelligible sound that echoed over the speaker and through Spock’s environmental helmet. “Please repeat your previous communication, sir,” Spock requested. “The speaker systems may be malfunctioning.”
“Remind me to stop using metaphors around you, Spock.” Kirk was propelling toward the two humanoids floating 7.8 meters from the damaged shuttle.
Spock drifted into the ship’s broken hull. “I would, yet experience informs me that such reminders would be ignored.” He found two crew members in the cockpit with no life signs, and one in the passenger seat that displayed signs of cranial injury but still possessed a heartbeat. “I have repeatedly remarked on the confusing nature of your speech patterns. All my recommendations for clarity have been unheeded.” Spock linked the cord attached to his suit around the survivor and gently navigated his way through the shuttle, in order to prevent further damage to the unconscious Andorian.
“Yeah, I’m a lost cause. Jim Kirk: human through and through.” Spock noted heavy breathing from Kirk through his speakers. “I’ve found three survivors. No puppies though.”
“I do not understand why you insist on finding canines in vacuum space where there should be none.” The Andorian’s environmental suit flashed a signal indicating he was low on oxygen. Spock hastened his movements.
“It’s a sim, anything’s possible and Pike loves dogs. You found anyone alive in there, Commander?”
“I have retrieved a single survivor, an Andorian. The pilot and navigator had no life sign readings.” There was a notable amount of debris blocking his path back to the hull. Spock started to cross it, using his propulsion jets to keep his movements controlled. “However, the survivor’s oxygen tank is at five percent.”
“Damn, okay. Do you need help getting out of there? I’m dumping these two off at our imaginary rescue shuttle.”
“Negative. I estimate rescue will take 5.7 minutes.” Spock drifted past a piece of broken hull floating across his path, easing the Andorian around it.
“I’m coming to help anyway. Many hands make light work,” Kirk replied.
“It is unnecessary. Two hands are sufficient.” Spock avoided a piece of duranium that looked dangerously sharp, tugging the Andorian close.
“Too bad, so sad. I’m the one in charge this time. For once I get to boss you around. I’m coming to help.”
“I have never bossed you around,” Spock replied as he tucked his legs over the duranium sheet.
“We obviously have different ideas of what bossing around means,” Kirk’s voice hummed through his speaker.
“Your personality is approximately sixty eight percent more demanding than my own.”
“Tell that to every single student in your xenolinguistics class. Remember, the ones I’ve been sitting in on. That kid you called out for messing up his Tellarite translation last Thursday looked like he was on the verge of a breakdown.”
“You are exaggerating. If Cadet Roberts spent less time sleeping during lectures, there would be no need for me to continuously correct his errors.”
“Correct his two errors.” Spock sensed laughter on the other end of the speaker. “In front of the whole class.”
“Those two errors could have caused significant offense if spoken to Tellarites in a diplomatic set--.”
“Spock--you all right?” Kirk’s voice echoed through Spock’s speaker, uncomfortably loud.
“I am unharmed.” A section of the weakened hull had detached from the wreckage, catching Spock on his arm and pushing him into an uncontrolled spiral. The rope attaching him to the Andorian had twisted around the floating piece of metal. “I appear to be tangled around a piece of debris. The release switch for the rope attached to my suit has malfunctioned.”
“Hold on, I’m here.” Spock saw a flash of movement from where he hung suspended. His hands moved against the rope, attempting to release it. From the breech in the upper hull, a flare of lights temporarily filled his vision.
“Shit. A warbird just decloaked on our starboard. Looks like the Klingons are back for more action.” Kirk was approaching, pushing pieces of hull out of his way.
“I advise you take more care as you move. You are likely to cause more damage and find yourself in a similar predicament as my own.”
“Yeah, and look where being careful got you. Hanging upside down, tangled up on a suffocating Andorian, waiting to get your brains blasted by some blood thirsty Klingons.”
“You should have remained on the rescue shuttle with the others. We knew Klingons could still be in the area.” Spock toyed with the mechanics on the release switch.
“Stop complaining and let me help.” Kirk moved to the Andorian, unknotting the rope hooked to the belt on his suit allowing Spock to float free. He leaned against the metal and pushed himself upright to face Kirk.
“You should not have returned. Now, you have placed yourself and the two survivors you retrieved in danger.”
As he looped the Andorian to his suit, Kirk glanced at Spock from the corner of his eye. “Don’t pull that save yourself crap on me. I’m gonna get us all out of here, relax.”
Spock raised an eyebrow. “And how do you propose to do that…sir?”
Kirk smiled, drifting closer. “Play dead and hope the Klingons go away.”
“And if they do not?” Spock asked.
“I’ll figure out a plan B if it comes to it.” Kirk pushed a control on his suit panel and the Andorian’s, the lights on both blinking out. “Turn off your lights.” He pulled a second piece of rope from his suit, latched it on to Spock’s and looped the dead piece that once held the Andorian around Spock’s waist. “I shut down the rescue shuttle’s engine. Hopefully the Klingons will think it’s part of the wreckage and carry on their way until we can get back and warp out of here.”
“It would be wiser to remain within the wreckage until they leave. We will risk detection if we proceed back to the ship while the war bird is in sight.”
“I’m not waiting around for some curious Klingon looking for scraps to find us.” Kirk tugged on the rope between them and lifted the trigger on his propulsion, navigating them out of the broken hull. In his temporarily subordinate state, Spock had no choice but to follow, the rope dragging him behind Kirk securing his fate.
Kirk maneuvered easily among the debris despite the lack of lighting, pulling them behind larger pieces of duranium and scrapped shuttles along the route to avoid the warbird’s vision as it moved along the perimeter. In 8.3 minutes, minutes that illogically felt like hours, they had arrived at the rescue shuttle and closed the hatch. Kirk had Spock attend to the survivors while the cadet started the engines. Through the port window, Spock saw the Klingon ship turn in the shuttle’s direction 3.2 seconds before Kirk put the ship into warp. The simulation ended, and Spock found himself once again in a hologram chamber, Kirk walking over to him, a huge grin spread across his face, already half out of his environmental suit.
“Not bad, huh?” Kirk flung an arm around Spock’s shouders.
The holosuite doors opened and Pike entered. Glancing between the two, he crossed his arms and walked up the them. “You know we could hear everything you were saying, right?”
Kirk shrugged. “Just trying to keep it natural. Like real life.”
Pike appeared to be holding back expressions of amusement from the way his skin twitched around the creases near his mouth. “Uh huh.” Pike looked at Spock with a questioning eyebrow. “Never thought you’d be buddy buddy with someone like Kirk, Spock. Don’t know whether I should be impressed or horrified.”
Spock moved out of Kirk’s grasp and unlatched the fastenings on his helmet, pulling it off his head. “If Vulcans expressed feelings of awe and disgust, I imagine I would be experiencing a similar paradox.”
“I’m right here you know,” Kirk effused, placing his hands on his hips. “So, out with it, sir. Did I pass?”
“Evidently not,” Spock replied.
“Yes,” Pike stated at the same time.
Kirk grinned. “This is like being punched in the face and patted on the back at the same time.”
“Don’t be so melodramatic, kid. You did good—thought on your feet, didn’t get anyone killed, and avoided a possible diplomatic faux pas by avoiding confrontation with the Klingon scout.”
Spock frowned. “Cadet Kirk put his own life and the life of the simulated humans he had rescued in danger by abandoning the rescue shuttle to assist me. If circumstances had been different, all members of the mission would have perished.”
“Now who’s being melodramatic,” Kirk muttered. “I wasn’t about to leave you out there, sim or no sim.”
“The most logical decision would have been to stay with the shuttle and wait for me to return. If I had been unable to extricate myself from the wreckage and return to the ship in time, you should have gone into warp upon detection by the Klingons.”
“Yeah, and leave two people behind to die.”
“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” Spock replied.
“Not if the needs of the few can be met without hurting the many, which I just did. You’re welcome.” Kirk’s voice had become raised. Pike held his palms up between the two of them, shaking his head.
“This is a really rousing discussion, but you kids need to get out of my holosuite. I still have two teams to test.” Pike waved them out the doors. “You worked well together. Go have a drink to celebrate, or something.” He gave Kirk a shove out the door before retuning to the observation area.
Kirk turned to Spock. “So, wanna go for that drink.”
“No.” Spock turned, heading toward the changing rooms to deposit his environmental suit.
Kirk jogged after him. “Don’t be pissed at me, Spock.”
“I am not pissed. Vulcans do not get pissed.” He placed his helmet on the shelf beside others of similar size, hanging the suit on a hanger under it.
“I know it’s not logical, but I wasn’t about to leave anyone in my crew behind when there was a chancing of getting everyone back safely.” Kirk placed his own suit on the rack in the wrong size area. He shoved his helmet beside Spock’s.
Spock paused and turned to stare at Kirk. The cadet shifted under Spock’s observance, his eyes darting between the wall and Spock’s eyes. 33.8 seconds passed.
“Your actions were admirable, if irrational.”
Kirk let out a huff of breath. “Thanks, Spock.” He smiled. “So, how about that drink. My treat.”
“Vulcans do not consume alcohol.”
“I know, I know, but it’s a tradition for friends and comrades to celebrate after a job well done.” Kirk cocked his head at Spock. Spock found the angle oddly appealing. “Besides, Pike told us to go have a drink and you’re supposed to listen to your superior officer, so let’s go.”
As he found himself increasingly doing when faced with Kirk’s demands, Spock acquiesced. “Very well.”
Spock’s communicator buzzed as he was about to partake in his evening meal. He pressed the receive button.
“Greetings, Spock.” T’Pring’s face appeared on the screen, her hand held up in the Ta’al.
“T’Pring.” Spock mimicked the greeting, feeling a momentary shudder of dread.
As was customary, T’Pring immediately declared the purpose of her communication without engaging in meaningless conversation. “Have you made progress on your article for the VSA’s yearly publication?”
Spock paused to contain himself. He and T’Pring had severed their preliminary bond two years ago on mutual terms, yet she remained a formidable force in his life as the editor for the VSA’s scientific journal. A journal Spock submitted articles to every year, mostly on topics of xenolinguistics and anthropology. T’Pring was extremely proficient and exacting in her role and was well suited to the position. Spock had known why she called the moment he saw her face.
“I have been considering many topics, such as Tellarite familial roles, and the Gorns’ interest in physicality. I have yet to settle on a focus for the paper.”
T’Pring raised an eyebrow, slightly accusatory in nature. “The deadline approaches. It is unlike you to delay, Spock. Perhaps living among a more emotionally expressive species has weakened your focus.”
“Negative.” Spock breathed. “If anything I have been overwhelmed by choice. I observed and interacted with many fascinating species during my deep space mission with Captain Pike last year.”
“I see.” T’Pring’s eyebrow had lowered, her gaze unwavering. “But what of humanity? You have been working and living among Terrans for several years. You are in an ideal position to make a study of your maternal species.”
Spock blinked. T’Pring was correct. Living on Earth gave him ample opportunity to experience and witness an alien society. However, as science officer aboard a starship exploring planets other than Earth, Spock’s attention at the time had been on other, unknown species. Now, in his capacity as instructor at Starfleet, he had become more observant of the humans around him, especially the interactions between his students. A memory of Kirk whispering into Gaila’s ear came to mind, followed by Kirk’s offer to instruct Spock on human proclivities.
“Would the VSA welcome a paper on human culture?”
“It would be welcome and most informative,’ T’Pring answered. “If you are in agreement, choose a focus on Terran culture and submit a proposal to me within fifteen days.”
“Understood.” Several ideas were coming to him already. Perhaps a focus on human colloquial speech, or human friendships. Recent interactions with Cadet Kirk had already provided Spock with ample information on both these topics. “Live long and prosper, T’Pring.” He formed the Ta’al.
“Live long and prosper,” she responded in kind before closing the connection.
As was Kirk’s habit, he once again detained Spock after the next xenolinguistics club meeting.
“As I have repeatedly informed you, Professor or Commander Spock, is the correct address, Cadet. We are on Starfleet headquarters.”
“Yeah, sure, whatever you say, Professor.” Kirk’s eyes were unusually bright, most unnatural. “Commander, is it true you programmed this new test every command stream cadet is pulling their hair out over?”
“I have programmed no test favouring a candidate’s baldness. Nor would I ever have a need to.”
‘No,” a bark of laughter. The metaphor was apt. Kirk’s mannerisms regularly reflected those of an Earth canine; most notably, the way he followed Spock around like a domesticated animal. Kirk often reminded Spock of his childhood pet, I‘Chaya, minus the fangs and copious amount of fur. “It was another human saying, Spock. I’m talking about the Kobayashi Maru. The simulation no one’s passed yet.”
“I do not understand why humans conceal their true meanings behind illogical ‘sayings.’ Why not state your facts and questions clearly. It would save time and possible confusion that could lead to multiple misunderstandings.” Spock rested his hands behind his back. If he had correctly observed Kirk’s habits, Spock would be occupied in conversation with the cadet for the next ten to fifteen minutes.
“You know you’re wasting your time. We are the way we are, Spock. Fallible, confusing, illogical. Come on, would you have me any other way?” Kirk was invading Spock’s personal space again. His eyelashes fluttering over his eyes five times more frequently than Kirk’s usual blink ratio.
Spock lifted an eyebrow, and stepped back. “Vulcans adhere to IDIC, infinite diversity in infinite combinations. I do not mean to change your cultural mannerisms, only to understand them.”
Kirk grinned, this time keeping the distance Spock had established. “The offer still stands, you know. I’d be happy to show you how the human mind works.” He tapped the side of his forehead. “Give you an intimate knowledge on all things human.” Spock’s eyes moved to the meld point Kirk had drawn attention to with his right index finger.
The overture was overly intimate. Spock was unsure if Kirk realized what he was offering or if he was simply playing with human “sayings” again. “I have considered your offer,” Spock paused, considering. “In fact, I have been commissioned by the VSA to write a paper on human culture. Your insights as a member of the human species could prove valuable.”
“Really! Does that mean you wanna study me?” Kirk’s rapid blinking had returned.
“I suggest you seek medical attention,” Spock observed. “You appear to be suffering from eye irritation.”
Kirk stared at Spock for a moment of rare silence. “Huh?”
“I suggest you seek medical attention. You appear to be suffering from eye irritation,” Spock repeated. Kirk’s auditory system also appeared to be failing. A modicum of concern rose behind Spock’s mental shields.
“No,” Kirk replied. “I meant, what are you talking about?”
“You have been blinking five times faster than normal for a human male. This is often a symptom of eye irritation. Perhaps a foreign substance has entered your cornea."
Kirk closed the distance between them. His abstinence had been short lived. “Wanna have a look for me.” More excessive blinking, and then a wide eyed stare that heightened the distracting colour of his eyes. The appropriate human saying at this moment, if Spock had interpreted the term used by Uhura on multiple occasions when Kirk utilized his eyes in a similar fashion, was, ‘puppy dog eyes.’
Perhaps Kirk had spent an abnormal amount of time around canines during his formative years.
“I am not a doctor. Seeking the assistance of a medical professional would be the logical course of action. Preferably one with experience in optometrics.”
Kirk burst into laughter again for a more extended period. This time involved a gripping of his stomach area, and hands slapping knees. Was the cadet experiencing indigestion and knee trouble, as well?
Kirk required a moment to catch his breath. “Don’t worry, there’s nothing wrong with me, Spock. I just have a tendency to blink more when I see something I like.” He blinked again, once, slowly. “Because I want to make sure I’m not seeing things and that it, or he,” Kirk closed a single eye briefly, “actually exists.”
Spock was becoming more confused by this conversation the longer it progressed. He decided to address the comment he had fully understood. “Vulcans do not worry.”
Kirk exhaled loudly, what Spock had come to know as the human sigh. “You’re a hard nut to crack, Spock. Ahh don’t even start!” Kirk held up a hand as Spock opened his mouth to protest the logic of this new colloquialism. “Another saying--I’ll explain it later. Anyway, you haven’t answered my question, yet.”
“I am indeed facilitating the Kobayashi Maru test.”
“Ha! Knew it.” Kirk replied. “So is it really unbeatable? There has to be a crack somewhere. Give me a hint, huh?’
“I will not.”
“Pretty please.” Kirk pressed his hand against Spock’s arm. Spock tensed.
Kirk issued a series of moans that made Spock reevaluate his earlier theory about indigestion. “I’ll just have to beat it on my own then.”
Kirk continued to stare at Spock as the silence stretched between them. There was an increase in pressure between Kirk’s hand and Spock’s arm. Spock blinked.
“Huh. Don’t think I’ve ever seen you blink before.” Kirk leaned forward. “You sure you’re not the one experiencing irritation of the eyes?”
“I am not. Vulcans blink as humans do only less regularly, due to our second eyelid providing the necessary protection and fluids.”
Kirk’s lips parted slightly. Spock’s eyes moved downward. “You have two eyelids?” He peered at Spock, his face leaning 2.6 inches closer than previously. “No way.”
“That is what I said. Vulcans do not lie.”
“Really?” A smile. Spock wished to move his eyes upward, to view the crowd, or the landscape, anything other than the movement of Kirk’s lips. “Then tell me, Spock. How can I beat the Kobayashi Maru?”
“I cannot, and will not, tell you. A refusal to answer an impertinent question is not a lie.”
Kirk shrugged. “Can’t blame me for trying.”
“Indeed, I can. Attempting to coerce an instructor into revealing the specifics of a graded Starfleet evaluation undermines the values of the Academy. As you are enrolled in the command track, you are expected to display the integrity expected of Starfleet officers. If, as you frequently have noted in my presence, wish to become a captain of a Starfleet vessel, it will be necessary for you to become a model for your subordinates to follow, rather than a bad influence.”
“You gonna tell on me, Spock?” The outright dismissal of Spock’s reprimand made him question the health of Kirk’s ears again. Medical attention would be necessary before Kirk’s entire body system failed.
“As your attempts to pressure me into revealing confidential information has failed, I will not. However, desist from future immoral behavior, particularly actions that suggest you are trying to use your sexual prowess to extract information from me. It is unethical, and useless. I am Vulcan. The possibility of fornication does not motivate my actions.”
“So, you think I have sexual prowess?” Kirk grinned, and moved another foot forward. There were two inches between them now form nose tip to nose tip. “I was beginning to wonder if you even noticed.”
Spock opened his mouth to speak, and then closed it. Conversing with Kirk was genrally exhausting. “As your exploits among your fellow cadets are now common knowledge, I would think the answer obvious.”
The breath Kirk exhaled moved more forcefully through his nose compared to the humored sighs that often left Kirk’s lips after Spock questioned one of his flirtatious comments. This particular sigh must describe a different emotion. “Forget the others, Spock. I’m interested in what you think.”
Spock lifted an eyebrow and answered stiffly. “What I think of what?”
“Of me.” Kirk fluttered his hands in the air, missing Spock’s nose by 3 millimeters.
Spock watched Kirk for any further displays of emotion that could provide intelligence on the cadet’s meaning. He held Spock’s gaze for an uncomfortable six seconds, an uncommon intensity and stillness in Kirk’s figure. Although the shade was similar to that of Earth oceans, Spock observed Kirk’s eyes to be a variant of blue he had never seen before. An illogical thought passed through Spock’s thoughts—what a pleasing contrast Kirk’s eyes would make against the red sands of Vulcan. At the same moment, Kirk’s gaze shifted to the right, a faint tinge staining his cheeks. Red and blue.
‘No.’ Spock expelled the shadow of emotion suddenly shading his thoughts.
“According to your academic record, you have received honours in advanced combat training, and by the structure of your figure and endurance you showed during Captain Pike’s rescue simulation, this proves you are physically stable and would serve well in a bodily demanding capacity such as security. Professor Horowitz stated, using an unnecessary excess of adjectives, you are, and I quote, ‘a genius in computer programming.’ Captain Pike has often commented on your tactical skills and unusual yet effective methods of reasoning. However, you have difficulty with delegating, and separating your emotions from the tasks you are given. Your actions during the rescue simulation displayed this.”
“You’ve looked at my records?” Kirk raised his gaze back to Spock, his eyes widening—a sign of surprise. The tinge on his cheeks darkened. It was not the fact Spock expected Kirk to focus on, but rather the beneficial analyzation of his traits. The cadet would do well to improve his listening skills and to reign in his emotions if he wished to impress the admiralty enough to acquire a captaincy one day.
“I read the records of all cadets enrolled in my classes and those registered in the xenolinguistics club.”
“Oh.” Kirk’s eyes moved down then up, to the side, an abnormal, almost startling sign of disturbance. “That’s very thorough of you.”
“Knowing my students strengths and weaknesses assists in my teaching methods and informs me when individual focus is required.”
“And I could do with some individual focus?” Kirk smirked, an expression Spock found untrustworthy, as if the cadet used it to distract others from, rather than highlight, his true emotional state.
“In aspects of your personality I previously described, yes. However, your focus is not communications. As you know, I am a xenolinguistics instructor. You would find better instruction from your tactical and command professors.”
“I don’t know,” Kirk murmured. “You seem pretty commanding to me. Sure you don’t wanna ditch the science station for the captain’s chair?”
“I have no interest in command.”
“Starfleet’s loss.” Kirk moved a hand to the back of his neck, rubbing the skin there. “I mean, you’re already an excellent science officer, from what I’ve heard Pike say. He thinks you’re pretty awesome, you know. And Uhura’s always going on about all the stuff you know. And from what I can tell, from our occasional talks, and seeing you at the club, and sitting in on your classes you’re a really smart guy. Obviously.” Kirk was moving from foot to foot now, his hands flying about as he talked. Spock’s eyes followed their movements. “And, I think you’re pretty great.” Kirk cleared his throat, his pupils darting about as much as his hands. “So, I bet you’d make an amazing captain, too. Or be perfect at anything you set your mind to.”
Spock lifted both his eyebrows. Anyone with weaker concentration would have had trouble following Kirk’s blathering adulation. Most peculiar. Was he attempting to flatter Spock into revealing information about the Kobayashi Maru? Did he really believe such deception would work on a Vulcan? Kirk was occasionally oblivious, but not stupid.
“Your observations are exaggerated beyond logic. There are skills that are beyond my nature to master.”
Kirk perked up. “Oh? Like what?”
This conversation had gone on longer than Spock felt comfortable with. It was unlike him to participate in such illogical small talk without purpose. Spock wished to step away, turn his back and hasten from Kirk in as quick a stride he could manage that would not appear insulting or possibly frantic. However, he remained stationary.
“Come on, Spock! You already know what I suck at. It’s only fair you share.”
“You are a Starfleet cadet. You have no need for further information about skills unrelated to my position.”
Kirk’s confident grin had returned. “Just because I don’t need it, doesn’t mean I don’t want it.” His eyebrows did an unattractive up and down motion.
Spock blinked. “As you have displayed unwavering persistence in the past, and seem unable to curb your invasive curiosity, I will tell you, even though the knowledge is of no logical use to you, nor would it prove useful for me to provide it.”
“Spit it out, Spock.” Kirk was shaking with barely repressed laughter. Indeed, the effort he was making at control was unusual. Control was not in Kirk’s nature.
“Spit? Is this a human ritual that is required when providing facts on one’s personal skills?”
Kirk’s control had failed. “No, Spock.” He paused to laugh. “Another saying to add to the list. It means to hurry up and tell me what I want to hear.”
“I see. A most unappealing phrase.” Spock paused, resting his hands behind his back. “I cannot dance.”
Kirk’s grin widened. His lips possessed an uncanny flexibility. “Dance! Well, maybe you just haven’t had the right teacher.”
“Vulcan’s do not dance. It is not in my nature to perform such an activity.”
“How do you know you can’t, then?” Kirk asked.
Spock hesitated. He was sharing more information than he had intended to impart. “My mother tried to teach me when I was a child.”
Kirk’s eyebrows lifted. “Your mother? So, there you go. At least one Vulcan dances.”
It was illogical to continue this conversation, however to abandon it would be discourteous. “Negative,” Spock replied. “My mother is human.”
“You’re half human?” Kirk’s voice echoed through the courtyard. Several cadets passing by turned their heads to stare. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“As I have already noted, such information, similar to much of the facts shared during this conversation, is unnecessary and provides no purpose.”
“Hardly! It’s called getting to know each other, Spock.”
“Getting to know each other is pointless.”
“Spock.” Kirk’s lips fell past their neutral position. “You wound me.”
Spock felt a momentary pang of regret, yet easily pushed it aside. “I did not mean to injure, in fact, I do not understand how I could have as I have not touched you.”
“I thought we were becoming friends, Spock?” Kirk’s lips puckered into a pout. “Wanting to get to know each other is part of that. It’s ‘necessary’ to build a relationship.”
“Relationships between instructors and cadets beyond the professional are unnecessary.”
“Just because it’s unnecessary doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be friends,” Kirk replied.
“Vulcans are not a social species,” Spock countered.
“Yeah, but you’re half human.” Kirk smiled. Although Spock felt minor irritation at Kirk’s intrusiveness, he found the man’s conversation disturbingly compelling. He should want it to end, but did not.
“Hey, Spock?” Despite the sudden weakness in his voice, Kirk’s gaze had strengthened. If the cadet ever earned a captaincy, his eyes would prove useful for persuasion—at least to those serving under him who belonged to species moved by such physicality.
“Cadet.” Spock wondered if he was suffering a sudden paralysis. He was standing too close to Kirk. It was unwise, yet he was currently unable to remedy it.
“Do you like Italian food?” Kirk suddenly asked.
Spock blinked. “I do not know.” When would he be released from this illogical conversation?
“How about we get a start on those human lessons I promised? I’ll take you out for dinner at this great Italian place I know. Get to try some new food and learn some new stuff about us illogical humans for your research paper. I could even help you with your dancing problem.” Kirk grinned. “Hey, you could write about dancing. There’s a whole load of human stuff tied up in that, especially in the romantic arena”
“Being unable to dance is not a problem,” Spock retorted.
“Tell that to me when you‘re dating a human girl and she pulls you onto the dance floor.”
“I have no desire to ‘date’ human girls,” Spock frowned.
“Okay, human guys, then.”
“I will not be dating human males either. Your speech is becoming increasingly illogical.”
Kirk chuckled, patting Spock’s arm. He glared at Kirk, and the cadet flushed, moving his arm to the back of his neck again. “Well, dancing or no dancing, there are other human peculiarities I can tell you all about. I know how curious you are about this stuff.” Kirk shifted in place. “Come on, think about all that knowledge you don’t know that you could know after a night of me talking your ear off. Let me take you out in the name of science.”
“You are most peculiar, Cadet Kirk.” Spock continued to watch Kirk, as if staring at him long enough would help translate the confusion and unknowns in Kirk’s speech and actions. “Yet, you speak truth. Your insight could prove valuable to my research.”
“Great!” Kirk clapped his hands. “How about this Saturday at 19:00? I’ll come pick you up. And no, not literally,” he remarked at Spock’s lifted eyebrow. “I mean, I’ll drive over and get you.” He pulled his communicator from his pocket and handed it to Spock. “Here, enter your address.”
“Very well.” Spock took the communicator from Kirk, careful not to graze his hands, entered the requested information and handed it back.
“Great. Cool. Thanks.” Kirk fidgeted with his communicator. “I’m already looking forward to it. We’ll have fun, I promise.” Kirk smiled at him, a softer look this time that made the skin at the edges of his eyes crinkle.
“Fun is unnecessary,” Spock replied. Now that Spock had accepted Kirk’s invitation, Spock hoped he would be free from the cadet’s presence soon. Spock had experienced more emotions during the 15.6 minutes they had conversed than he had in the past month as a whole. Spock wished to return to his quarters before his next class for some silence and meditation.
“Sure, sure, you keep telling yourself that.” Kirk pressed his hand to Spock’s arm again, briefly. The brevity did not lessen the impact it had upon Spock’s already floundering mental shields. “I’ll get out of your way. For now.” A single blink of Kirk’s right eye. “See you Saturday.”
Spock nodded. With another smile that made Spock’s stomach feel slightly queasy, Kirk turned and left. Spock watched Kirk’s back a moment longer than necessary and then retreated, his leg muscles once again functional.