Even after direct contact with the human species for five point eight two years, Spock finds that he still does not understand them as well as he perhaps should. He understands individual human beings, of course—Ensign Chekov, for example, is boisterous and eager to learn. Spock has spent more than one evening with him in the science labs aboard Enterprise discussing telemetry and the feasibility of quantum hyperinflation in a controlled environment. Doctor Simon Tam from medical and Lieutenant Mira Romaine from the science department are even-tempered and very logical, and Spock has no trouble communicating effectively with either of them. Nyota—has of late become more difficult to understand, but that does not stop Spock from attempting communication with her or even enjoying her company.
Neither does he have any particular qualms with any of the Andorian crew, nor the Orion, Denebian, nor Stryptilian complement of the ship. Perhaps, if Spock may be so bold as to extrapolate, it is only one particular human being who continues to baffle him, and the consistency with which they interact has made Spock biased. He must meditate on this possibility at the next available juncture, and so Spock files the information away for gamma shift.
Of course, Spock is referring to Captain Kirk. In fact, he is willing to admit to a potential problem in their working relationship approximately sixty eight days into their five-year mission. He is, unfortunately, unable to give himself a more accurate approximation, as he is still unsure his belief has any basis in fact.
(Spock imagines that his mother would say he is “over thinking things,” but she is dead and he cannot hope to know what she would say in such circumstances, so such a thought is neither necessary nor wanted.)
The friction between Captain Kirk and himself continues to baffle him, however, because he had believed their working relationship to be quite complementary after their success with Nero.
“It’s because the whole crisis with Nero was, well, a crisis,” Nyota explains to him one afternoon in the middle of the Mess Hall. Spock is scheduled to work Beta Shift today, and so is enjoying an early breakfast while Nyota—who was working Alpha—has a late lunch. “People work differently under a lot of stress. There was this girl in my Intro to Battle Tactics class at the Academy; her name was Tel-ak’hmes. She was brilliant in her field of study but had really bad test anxiety. She would put so much stress on herself the week preceding an exam that she completely blanked on test day.”
“What was her field of study?”
Nyota breathes out heavily in what could be interpreted as a sigh. She sets her fork down and studies him carefully.
“History of Denebian culture,” she says slowly. “But it’s not relevant to the point I’m trying to make, Spock.” Perhaps expecting a response from Spock that he does not give, she pauses for a moment before continuing. “There are individuals who perform better under duress, and others who don’t. Either way, events that carry a lot of stress can bring out characteristics that the individual wouldn’t normally exhibit. Most of the class thought Tel-ak’hmes wasn’t very smart, because she was always stressing over her test-performance, but she was one of the smartest people in there.”
She takes a slow sip of her glass of water, her eyes trained on Spock. For his part, Spock is not entirely certain how he should respond. He can understand Nyota’s reasoning; however, he does not know if he agrees with her conclusion. In fact, he protests quite strongly the implication that the captain is only capable of expressing the abilities he’d exhibited on the Narada during crises.
In Spock’s opinion, further evidence is required before such a blanket statement can be given. He wants to tell Nyota that her logic is not sound and that perhaps her biases towards the captain are clouding her reasoning skills.
Instead, he says, “Thank you, Nyota, for your input.”
She smiles at him then, the first time since he had asked for her opinion on the matter. Spock thinks that perhaps he is beginning to understand why tact is so important when communicating.
“I have to get back to the bridge,” she says. She stands and hesitates for a moment before speaking again. “Will you walk with me?”
“I have an appointment with the Science Department heads in four point six minutes,” is Spock’s response. He cannot help but notice that the smile previously gracing Nyota’s delicate features is now gone.
“Of course,” she replies. “I guess I’ll see you some other time, then.”
“Undoubtedly,” Spock answers.
He does not watch her depart. Instead, he finishes up his bowl of fruit and proceeds to the Science Department.
His meeting with the ten heads of the Science Department is short. After only two months on the Enterprise and less than half a dozen exploratory missions logged, it is no surprise that there is little mission-related business to discuss. He approves several independent research projects and dismisses his subordinates fifty eight minutes later.
With fifteen minutes until his shift officially begins, Spock enters the bridge. Alpha shift is already very near over, but the nature of Spock’s schedule has him working at odd times. It is true that his circadian rhythms long ago adapted to that of a typical human diurnal schedule, because of the length of time he spent at the Academy, but lately Spock has gone out of his way to reacquaint his body with the old Vulcan day. It was tedious to force his body to adapt to a schedule that is not implemented aboard the starship. It is also more work for the quarter-master, with whom Spock has spoken with and agreed to help plan his schedule accordingly.
It is, quite unabashedly, illogical for Spock to work four hours per shift, every shift, every day. However, upon first waking, Spock thinks of Vulcan, and when he enters the mess hall it is quite empty—as most of Enterprise’s crew is either in the middle of shift or very much asleep, and so he thinks of Vulcan then. When he walks onto the bridge or science labs, and his subordinates turn to him, Spock rather hopes they also, will think of Vulcan. And in this manner, illogical behavior such as Spock’s is quite justifiable.
Someone appears to have recently said or done something humorous as Spock crosses to his station, for laughter still hangs in the air around them. The atmosphere on the bridge is relaxed and amicable when Lieutenant Gabrielle Laura stands, already familiar with his routine. She nods in acknowledgment and prepares to exit the bridge.
“I relieve you of your duties as acting Science Officer, Lieutenant,” he says before she reaches the elevator.
The lieutenant whips around and salutes him, blushing faintly.
“I am relieved, sir,” she says quickly, perhaps having forgotten simple Starfleet procedure.
“Spock, you don’t have to go through that every time you report for duty,” the captain says when the lieutenant has disappeared, swiveling in his chair to face him.
He is smiling good-naturedly, as is much of the bridge crew. Ensign Chekov and Lieutenant Sulu share a look over the helm before turning to study him.
“It is standard procedure,” Spock responds neutrally.
“I know that,” is the captain’s amiable response, “But it’s cumbersome and antiquated, too. Would it kill you to be a little more lax, Spock?”
“If you believe certain Starfleet regulations to be obsolete, sir, then I suggest you send a formal petition to Starfleet Headquarters.”
The atmosphere on the bridge changes abruptly, and Spock is not entirely sure why. The captain is no longer smiling; rather, there is the faint shadow of a frown on his face. His relaxed posture straightens out abruptly, the sound of his feet hitting the floor is inordinately loud in the ensuing silence.
“Of course, Commander,” he says. Something about his mood has shifted, as the relaxed atmosphere around the bridge has tensed minutely. “Thank you for clearing that up for me.”
Clearly the captain has taken offense where none was intended. Spock is unsure if he should apologize for whatever he may have said to cause such a negative reaction in the captain.
“Thanks are unnecessary,” Spock tries.
“Right, obviously,” Captain Kirk says, and even Spock can detect the sarcasm in his voice.
At that moment, Alpha shift officially ends, and the flood of Beta shift crew effectively cuts the conversation short. Kirk swivels back around to face the viewscreen and does not say a word as Beta shift begins.
It is obvious that the bridge crew feels the lingering tension between Kirk and himself; the only conversation on the bridge is stifled and somber. Captain Kirk waits only long enough for every member of the Beta shift crew to become situated before he stands.
“You have the bridge, Commander,” he says, and while the comment is directed at Spock, he keeps his gaze firmly locked on the viewscreen.
“Acknowledged, Captain,” Spock says.
He notices that even after the captain has gone, the tension does not ease out of the crew for another one point seven hours.
Catulla is a planet skirting dangerously close to the Neutral Zone. The Federation achieved first contact with it nine point seven years previous, but its planetary government has a history of paranoia and neutrality, which has proven cumbersome to certain Starfleet admirals. A formal treaty with has been stalled no less than four times in the intervening years. The most recent of which—two point two years ago—was postponed after a scandal with a Catullan Ambassador’s son.
Recently, however, the Federation has been able to reopen negotiations with Catulla, as its people have been growing increasingly restless over the possibility of Klingon invasion. A series of diplomatic summits has been called on the planet, and as a show of good faith, Enterprise has been ordered to the planet to witness the negotiations and—as Admiral Pike had told them over transmission—“generally act important.”
To Spock it does not seem the most logical course of action, to send a starship fitted for battle to a skittish, paranoid planet. Unfortunately he cannot comfortably speak with the captain of his misgivings; their working relationship as it stands is lukewarm at best. He is uncomfortable with lodging a formal protest against the mission. Instead, he merely makes a note to himself in his personal log and reports to the transporter room at the scheduled time.
The captain is already present; he is leaning against the console, flexing and un-flexing his hands as he speaks with the other members of the landing party. For once Spock had been in agreement with Kirk on the members of their landing party. Lieutenant Commander Ailough Tor—an Orion male—is head of Enterprise’s Department of Xenocultural Relations. He and Nyota will serve as suitable replacements for formal diplomats. Two security personnel are on the far side of the transporter room, inspecting a pair of phasers before strapping them onto their respective holsters.
Kirk looks up at that moment; a muscle in his jaw twitches and he stands straight up.
Spock inclines his head once in acknowledgment.
“All that remains is confirmation from the Catullan government that we are clear to beam down,” Spock says. “For a planet with a history of semi-isolationism, Catulla’s transporter protocol is remarkably similar to that of a typical penal colony.”
Spock finds it quite fascinating that such a coincidence should occur, and is in fact calculating the odds of such an occurrence when the captain replies.
“Don’t tell those diplomats down there that little bit of trivia,” he says, that muscle in his jaw still twitching. “I doubt politicians will want to hear they run their planet like a prison.”
The transporter room goes suspiciously silent after that proclamation. Spock raises an eyebrow and attempts to curtail the sudden frustration that builds up within him. Of course he did not mean his remark to be offensive, nor did he intend to repeat the statement to anyone on the planet’s surface.
“Of course, Captain,” Spock answers because he does not wish to have an argument before this mission.
At that moment, the transporter console beeps, indicating that Catulla has cleared them for beam-down. Kirk stares at Spock for another three point nine seconds, as if he cannot quite believe Spock has no more to say on the matter, before turning and jumping onto the platform.
“Get up here everyone,” he says sharply. Spock notes that the rest of the away team is 12 percent more hasty to obey his orders than usual. “Try not to cause a diplomatic incident.”
Spock ascends the steps to the transporter platform placidly and takes his place by the captain’s side. Kirk does not look his way as he says, “Energize.”
The Catullan High Governor, one Yssiri Cos, is not present when the away team beams onto the planet's surface. Instead they are greeted by a diplomatic envoy flanked by security personnel. As a standard procedure, newcomers to Catulla are subjected to a cursory security sweep. It is no different for Enterprise's crew. The Catullan security force does eye Lieutenants Barry Giotto’s and Angela Martine’s phasers somewhat suspiciously, but eventually they are allowed to pass into the Council Chamber, where the diplomatic summit will be taking place.
They all file into the room in two neat rows, where they are greeted with their first sight of the Council Chamber. It has a low, reinforced ceiling. The building itself is below ground, and its doors are a dense, heavy metal alloy, with a complex series of locks along the circular frame. The main door stands ajar now—perhaps as a show of good-faith to the Federation—but it is obvious that it is not usually kept so. Spock assumes that should the need arise, the room can also double as a fallout shelter. Still, it is brightly lit, and already several diplomats and admirals are mingling with various Catullan government officials.
Spock notes Admiral Komack's rigid silhouette on the other side of the chamber; he is speaking to a Catullan female who seems only mildly interested in what he is recounting. On the opposite end of the chamber, Admiral Pike stands, the only evidence of his ordeal on the Narada the cane he leans against heavily. He is chatting with two rigid Catullan males, both of whom have their hands tucked behind their backs. The away team disperses at the Captain's command, and Spock watches as they all wander into the crowd.
Particularly, Spock watches Captain Kirk as he winds his way through the crowd seemingly without purpose. It is not that Spock does not trust Kirk—he would not have asked for the position of First Officer had that been the case—but sometimes Spock finds he cannot quite tear his eyes away from the captain. It has lately become a habit, and when Kirk turns to scan the room once more and locks eyes with Spock, the scowl he sends Spock's way too is quite familiar. He is, however, too far away to hear Kirk's remark, so he does not feel entirely guilty for turning and resolutely crossing to a different area of the room.
That is, of course, when his father sees him. Spock’s relationship with Sarek has always been strained, and while the passing of his mother forced the two of them to communicate, it has done little to heal the yawning void that figuratively separates them. There is no way for Spock to excuse himself without appearing rude, and so he walks over to where Sarek is holding court with three dignitaries, Captain Stone from Enterprise's sister ship, USS Defiant, and two members of the Catullan's Governing Council.
"Spock," he says when Spock comes to a halt beside the group. "It is pleasing to see you again."
"Peace and long life, Father," Spock says formally to the casual greeting. "I hope you are in good health."
"I am," Sarek responds. Here, he turns to the group surrounding them. "This is Commander Spock of Vulcan, currently First Officer on board the United Starship Enterprise. He is also my son."
The others nod in acknowledgment of his rank.
At that moment, the High Governor chooses to enter the chamber. His entrance is preceded by a full security escort, which he dismisses with a casual wave of his arm. His hair is lavender and shining in youth, and is done up in tight ringlets in the style of his people. There is nothing particular about his dress to differentiate him from the other members of the Governing Council. Spock thinks this is perhaps another tradition that comes from a long history of paranoia. If a would-be assassin cannot tell members of the Governing Council apart, it would be much harder to pick out the High Governor. He steps up onto the ceremonial speaking platform and a hush almost immediately falls over the room.
“Honored guests,” Governor Yssiri says, smiling broadly. “It is in good trust that we welcome you today. Be welcomed into our fold, for tomorrow our negotiations begin.”
There is a smattering of polite applause at that before the governor steps down from the platform. Spock sees Kirk standing by the landing, waiting to greet him. For a second they lock eyes again, and Spock receives the distinct impression that he is missing some human social cue.
“Excuse me, Father,” Spock says idly, already departing from the small sphere of influence his father holds and weaving through the crowd to reach Kirk and the High Governor.
However, on Spock’s journey he is waylaid by Admiral Pike, Commander Tor and Nyota, all of whom introduce him to various dignitaries and Catullan politicians—they also force him to recite various illogical forms of pleasantries. It is therefore twenty-six minutes and fourteen seconds before Spock is able to reach Kirk and Governor Yssiri.
It would not be logical for Spock to lie to himself, and so he cannot honestly say he was not apprehensive of leaving Kirk alone with the Catullan High Governor. However, when Spock reaches the two of them, he finds Governor Yssiri in the midst of a booming laugh, clearly pleased with something. Kirk too is smiling widely, holding a glass of Catullan wine to his lips in an attempt to conceal his mirth. When he sees Spock, some of the joy flickers out of Kirk's gaze, but he maintains a somewhat forced smile while the governor composes himself. Spock clasps his hands behind his back and waits.
"Your Excellency Yssiri," Kirk begins, having practiced the standard Catullan greetings beforehand. "I entrust to you the knowledge of my Executive Officer. He is Commander Spock."
"Commander Spock," Yssiri repeats, taking a drink from his own ceremonial glass. "Your Captain is a remarkable specimen of humanity. Are all humans as eloquent as he?"
"It is true Captain Kirk is a singular human," Spock agrees slowly, suddenly very conscious of the way Kirk is staring at him.
"Your Excellency," Kirk starts, the smile dropping from his face. "I think—"
"I entrust my informal name to you, Captain Kirk," Yssiri says then. "It is Cos."
Kirk does not say anything for a moment. It is indeed a great show of faith from the High Governor, that he would supply Kirk with his informal name.
"Your trust is great to me," Kirk says awkwardly. "You may call me Jim."
Governor Yssiri laughs again and takes another deep drink from his glass. He waves his hand once in obvious dismissal.
"Go confer with your Executive Officer, Jim," he says amiably. "He looks to have issues to discuss with you."
Kirk nods to him and watches the Catullan make his way through the crowd. Immediately two members of the Governing Council flank him. Some minutes later, Kirk and Spock are approached by two servants who offer to lead them to their quarters for the duration of the mission. Spock is content to continue on in silence, mentally composing his schedule for tomorrow, until they come to a halt and it becomes obvious that Kirk and Spock are to be sharing sleeping quarters for the duration of the mission.
“Wait, wait, wait,” Kirk says, letting the formal composure he had kept up to that moment slip. “Is there a particular reason why we can’t have separate sleeping areas?”
The servants share a look that even Spock can interpret as apprehensive.
“Are your accommodations not to your liking?” one of them asks.
“It’s not that,” Kirk placates. His gaze flickers between the two servants, to Spock and away. “My First Officer is Vulcan. Vulcans value their privacy.”
“Privacy,” the other servant repeats. “Do officers frequently keep secrets from their commanding officers?”
Kirk does not answer immediately. No doubt he is seriously considering the implication of the servant’s question. There is obviously a gap in Starfleet’s knowledge, as the question itself implies a large amount of trust between two commanding officers. Spock thinks that it may be a grave error to fail to answer this question to the Catullan’s satisfaction.
“These quarters will suffice,” Spock says then. “We are humbled by your hospitality. Please inform the High Governor of our satisfaction.”
The two Catullans bow momentarily and depart. Kirk and Spock are left staring into the large living area, which thankfully has two separate sleeping alcoves.
“Well thank fuck for small miracles,” Kirk says, mostly to himself.
Spock chooses to ignore the statement and instead enters their rooms. Spock knows they should be discussing the impending negotiations or at the very least what Kirk has discovered about Yssiri, but he finds himself reluctant to open up a dialogue with the captain at this juncture. Kirk is pacing around the room, restless, and Spock knows from previous experience that when Kirk behaves in such a manner he is not entirely receptive to Spock’s attempts at communication. Instead, Spock busies himself with reading through a copy of the peace treaty.
They pass the rest of the night in silence.
“I was thinking we could go check up on High Governor Yssiri,” Kirk says the next morning over their meal. “He made it a point to tell me last night how much he wanted to show us around.”
They are in a makeshift mess hall, with two rows of long tables set up as a temporary repast area. Kirk and Spock arrived this morning early, and so they are relatively alone at this juncture. Spock estimates that Nyota, Tor and the rest of their landing party will arrive momentarily.
“It is not necessarily required for us to remain inseparable throughout the course of our stay,” Spock answers, taking a slow drink from his glass of water.
“Why not?” is Kirk’s response. “They like it here when we show solidarity and stuff. You know Yssiri founded the Catullan Independent Research Association before he’d been elected High Governor?”
“Clearly, he is an intelligent and ambitious being.”
“Yeah,” Kirk says, the corner of his mouth quirking up slightly. “I think you two would have a lot to talk about.”
Spock does not know how to reply to such a comment, and so for the moment he remains silent.
“The High Governor seemed particularly taken with you last night,” Spock says into the silence some time later. The captain merely shrugs. “It is curious, considering the culture’s natural propensity towards mistrust.”
“I’m just naturally charming, Spock,” Kirk says in a way that Spock believes is supposed to be ‘teasing.’
“Of course, Captain,” Spock says. “I will remind you, of course, that said ‘natural charm,’ namely your sexual proclivity towards seduction and promiscuity, may be construed as threatening to certain species.”
“My sexual proclivity towards promiscuity,” he repeats. The captain lets out a short breath, blinks very quickly for a moment, and then assiduously looks away, choosing instead to study the contents of his plate. “Okay,” he says quietly. “First, you don’t get to call me a slut in public. You just. You can’t do that.”
“I did no such thing. I merely—”
“Okay, you don’t get to calmly insinuate that I’m some kind of whore in the middle of a fucking diplomatic mission.”
“I only wished to ascertain—”
“Just go,” Kirk says then. Spock finds his gaze wandering away from the blue eyes that will not look at him. Instead, he studies Kirk’s hands, the right closed tightly around his eating utensil, the left resting lightly against his forearm. “Do whatever you want. Just go.”
Spock for a moment considers telling the Captain that he is being needlessly defensive, as Spock does not believe Kirk’s promiscuity to be detrimental to his command. Except, perhaps he did, as on reflection Spock’s statement does carry a shockingly obvious negative implication. He wishes to apologize then, for speaking inappropriately, but Kirk is not looking at him. For a moment, he appears completely still, poised for fight or flight. At any rate, Spock recognizes an order when he hears one. He departs.
It is curious to Spock—no, that statement is incorrect. In the face of emotionalism, truth must always prevail, and so Spock forces himself to understand the truth. It is frustrating to Spock that 89 percent of his interactions with Captain Kirk end in much the same manner, namely with Spock either offended or the one to give offense. He is troubled by this recurring pattern, as at the moment he cannot find any particular reason for their interactions to conclude like this.
He is beginning to assume that perhaps he has no natural compatibility with the captain, and that none might ever form, despite the attitude of a certain older, alternate universe counterpart of himself. It is not a pleasant thought.
As it happens, Spock is participating in what a number of species would call “pacing” or alternately, “venting,” and as such is not entirely aware of his surroundings as he moves. Within the confines of his mind, he acknowledges that focusing on his frustrations is quite illogical. Were he not on duty, he would retire to his quarters for meditation.
Indeed, he is contemplating retiring to his quarters despite being on duty when he unexpectedly encounters a member of the Catullan Governing Council. Her hair is a dark purple and swept up in a high, severe arrangement. She nods her politely when she sees him, and Spock returns the gesture, taking a moment to recall her name from the files he reviewed last night.
Her name is La Turenga. She, along with three other members of the Governing Council, forms the conservative block that is currently advocating neutrality and therefore opposes the Federation’s presence.
“You are Commander Spock,” she says after a brief pause.
“Yes,” Spock acknowledges.
Governor La nods again.
“Ambassador Sarek has spoken highly of you.”
“You have spoken with my father?”
It is a redundant and very illogical question to ask, as she obviously has spoken with Sarek. However, Spock thinks that since perhaps the start of this assignment he has not been behaving quite logically. Moreover, Spock has never claimed to behave logically concerning matters related to Sarek (it took the end of their world for Sarek to bridge his stony silence, and even then Spock wonders if it is only for Mother’s memory that Sarek speaks with him at all).
“Yes,” La answers, seemingly unaware of Spock’s distraction. “He is a trustworthy alien, it would seem. The High Governor himself has taken to him, as well as your captain.”
“I noticed, yes,” Spock says.
Spock was not the only one to notice, then, the way Yssiri appraised Captain Kirk. He thinks back to the hurt that flashed across Kirk’s face and believes that despite this, he may still have been wrong to speak so brazenly to his captain.
“Will he attend the Reading of the Treaty this morning?”
As with all formal documents proposed on Catulla, the proposed treaty will be read in their entirety before the negotiations begin. The ceremony is projected to last from three to five hours and has been deemed optional to both Enterprise’s and Defiant’s away teams.
“The captain, of course, is free to do as he wishes,” Spock says slowly, aware that his answer here is important but not sure why. At any rate, they did not speak of it previously, so Spock does not precisely know the captain’s intentions. “High Governor Yssiri expressed a desire to act as ‘tour guide’ to Captain Kirk should he wish to know more of Catullan culture.”
Governor La is silent at that. They begin walking, a slow, meandering pace that La sets. The corners of her thinly-shaped eyebrows droop slightly in a way that suggests deep contemplation in her species.
“The High Governor is without djit-hiru,” she says at length. The Universal Translator struggles over her final word. “I would take care, Commander.”
“I do not believe I understand your meaning,” Spock replies when the Universal Translator fails to supply him with even a list of possible meanings for her word. “What is djit-hiru?”
“To have djit-hiru is to have those who share with you all.” She stops for a moment, both in speech and movement before continuing. “It is the most basic form of trust on Catulla.”
At that moment, the Universal Translator hums softly in his ear and spits out life-bond/family-love as possible translations. Spock raises his eyebrow and clasps his hands behind his back.
“I see,” Spock states. “In which case I still do not understand. Again, Captain Kirk is free to do as he wishes. While I do not believe that any proposed overtures made to him will be accepted, it is ultimately not my concern.”
His statement seems to have a not together exiguous affect on Governor La. Indeed, it seems to have affronted her. She begins to blink very rapidly, and the fine, gill-like slits along her neck flare open in either aggression or fear.
“You and your captain are not, then, djit-hiru?” she asks quickly.
“If I understand your meaning, no, we are not.”
“Oh,” she replies, running her wrist along her gills reflexively. “But surely, between your crew, you are all djitae-hiras?”
Here the Universal Translator is quicker in inferring her meaning. It supplies Spock with family-love/commune/home, specific enough for Spock to understand what she means.
“I do not believe so.” He pauses here, aware of how truthful he is being, thinking back to countless moments he has spent eating alone or with only the company of Nyota. No, Enterprise is not his home. But then there are conversations he has with the exceptionally intelligent members of the crew, the way they smile fondly to him when off-duty in a way Spock never can. He thinks that someday it could be. “Is this different on Catulla?”
“Captain and Commander are always joined,” La says. “It is law. To not have djit-hiru>, even djitae-hiras is—suspicious.”
He thinks that this, perhaps, could be a troubling turn of events.
“If you will excuse me, Commander, I believe I will continue on alone.”
She disappears down the corridor, her pale gray robes swishing around the corner.
For six point seven seconds, Spock remains still, his eyes not wavering from the bend in the corridor. Then, he blinks, turns on his heel and begins a search for Kirk.
He searches for the captain for fifty four point seven minutes and across all six landings of the underground building. Spock finds him, as it happens, on the topmost level of the underground Governing Fortress. It is a high-ceilinged, somewhat empty atrium, with a large fountain as the only decoration in the center of the room. The topmost row of windows allow for faint slivers of silver light to spill in from the surface, and in one of those beams stands Kirk, talking quietly with Governor Yssiri.
“Captain,” Spock calls from across the room, his voice echoing along the walls of the atrium.
Kirk’s head snaps up, but Spock is too far away to interpret his facial expressions. He appears to speak with Yssiri again, who releases his hold on the captain’s upper arm. In six quick strides he is before Spock; inexplicably, he is smiling.
“Thank fuck you showed up,” he says quietly through his smile. “You were right about Yssiri, by the way. So whatever, don’t rub it in.”
“Captain, I must speak with you. Alone,” he adds, his gaze flicking over to Yssiri, who is watching them intently.
“Awesome,” Kirk says, and Spock cannot tell if he means it sincerely or ironically. “Let’s head back to our rooms.”
The tops of Kirk’s rounded ears flush lightly as he pushes past Spock into the stairwell behind him. It is now 1107 hours on Catulla. The Reading of the Treaty would have started at approximately 1030 hours. Spock regrets that he cannot be present at the reading, as he had made arrangements with Nyota to attend.
“So what is it, Commander?” Kirk asks when they are once again within the privacy of their temporary living quarters.
Spock considers the best way to phrase his quandary.
“I believe I inadvertently offended the leader of the opposition block,” he decides. “She referred to the workings of Enterprise as ‘suspicious,’ a word with numerous negative connotations attached to it.”
“So you’re not perfect.”
“My ego is not so inflated that I believed myself to be so, Captain,” Spock answers stiffly.
Kirk shakes his head at that, frowning suddenly.
“No, that’s not what—”
“The governor,” Spock continues, unwilling to be baited into an argument at this juncture, “expressed curiosity on the nature of our working relationship. She expressed some concern over the fact that we are not djit-hiru.”
“Did you figure out what that word meant?” Kirk asks, running a hand through the back of his hair. “I ran into it today too. I think trying to figure it out froze up my UT, because for a minute there I had no clue what Yssiri was saying.”
“I am still not entirely sure,” Spock admits. “From speaking with Governor La, it appears to be a figurative bond, formed by family members, friends or lovers of some kind.”
“Yeah, that’s what I had guessed,” Kirk says. Then—“Wait, you told her that we weren’t?”
“Oh.” Here, Kirk purses his lips, runs his pointer and middle finger across the line of his jaw. The action is very close to obscene for a Vulcan, and so Spock averts his gaze. “I kind of told Yssiri that we were. Because, you know. We work together, and I thought it just meant friendship or something.”
“Captain, I am Vulcan,” Spock says, crossing to the other end of the room to inspect one of the paintings on the wall. “We do not have friends.”
The statement is not entirely true, as Nyota can perhaps be considered as such by some. But the type of friendship that Spock believes is implied by this new phrase—no, that Spock does not have. The captain does not respond to that immediately. In fact, so much time elapses that Spock does turn to look at him, believing for a moment that he may have inexplicably departed. Instead, Kirk is looking down at the ground, left hand trembling slightly, as if he is resisting the urge to clench it into a fist.
“Oh,” he says again, swallows before continuing. “Of course, Commander. How stupid of me.”
They are in the process of exploring multiple options for how to best deal with their possible situation when a call comes to the communication system in the living area of their temporary quarters. Kirk—who has been pacing for the past sixteen point seven minutes—scowls at the device before marching towards it.
"Kirk, I want to know what you two said to those Catullan Ambassadors that has them complaining about mistrust and distrust in the Federation."
It is Admiral Pike's voice, Spock recognizes. He crosses the space of the room to stand behind Kirk, so he is visible to Pike, before clasping his hands behind his back.
"A certain Catullan governor expressed her suspicions of me regarding the captain and my lack of djit-hiru," Spock replies, not missing the way Kirk flinches ever so slightly at Spock's words.
"Jit-hero?" Pike says in a remarkably abysmal attempt at the language.
"It's a complex word that means something like a--" here Kirk stops, swallows-- "a bond between two or more people."
"Like marriage or something?"
"Not necessarily," Spock interrupts. "Although it is my theory that the human concept of marriage is somewhat similar to one particular aspect of the djit-hiru. More generally it refers to a close personal relationship between those you work, live or commune with. None of which I have, and so responded accordingly."
Pike breathes deeply for a moment, Spock inspects the unobtrusive blue wall behind Pike's seat in the interim.
"So they don't trust us anymore because you don't have friends aboard the Enterprise?"
"Uh," Kirk says then, angling his head towards Spock but never breaking eye-contact with Pike. He wonders for a second if Kirk had wished to turn to Spock for guidance of some sort, but at the last moment dissuaded himself. "Not really. That would probably have happened when I kind of told them incongruous info. Sir."
"'Incongruous info'," Pike repeats. "Do I want to know this?"
"When posed with the question, the Captain told High Governor Yssiri that we were, in fact djit-hiru," Spock says.
"The UT didn't know how to translate it!" Kirk defends quickly. "I had to practically guess what it meant, and I guess I guessed wrong."
Pike is silent for a long moment after Kirk's statement (seven point five seconds). Finally, some semblance of a smile lifts up one side of his mouth.
"You were overdue for one, I'd wager. A wrong guess," Pike says then. He sighs, rubs at one of his eyes with the heel of his hand. "Okay. I think this is fixable. I just need you guys off this planet, yesterday."
"A physical impossibility, as there is no proven way to--"
"Yes sir," Kirk interrupts, his mouth set in a firm line. Spock quells his irritation at being interrupted, instead raising an eyebrow.
"Call in your away team before they get cornered and accidentally make the matter worse," Pike says. "Pike out."
Spock blinks then, his mind for a moment grinding to a complete halt. Neither he nor Captain Kirk had thought of such a possibility, but if indeed members of the crew were forced to give their opinions on the matter, any disparate answers would be considered proof of their deceptiveness. Spock cannot believe such a thought had not occurred to him. It is a natural progression of intuitive logic. He recalls the argument exchanged between the captain and himself before Pike's transmission, surely the only logical culprit to Spock's slip in logic. It is unbearable that something as mundane as his working relationship with a superior officer can inhibit Spock's performance. Action must be taken, and soon.
"—Commander?" Kirk says from the other side of the room. Spock blinks again, aware suddenly that three minutes have elapsed. Kirk has his communicator in his hand and is repacking the clothes he brought along to the surface. "Uhura, Tor, Giotto and Martine have just beamed up. You ready?"
Spock's belongings are already packed, as he is not in the habit of leaving things in disarray. Even his garments from the previous day and his sleeping clothes had been neatly packed back into his bag before he departed for the morning meal.
"Yes, sir," Spock says. "I am ready."
They rematerialize on the ship to the away team gathered in a loose semicircle around the transporter pad. The transporter technician is concentrating very hard on something on the console; she hardly looks up when Kirk jumps off the platform.
"Get back to your stations," Kirk says quickly.
"Captain, what happened--"
"Is there something wrong?"
"I said," Kirk starts, his voice quiet and firm, not like Spock has ever heard before. Spock thinks, this is what a great captain sounds like. "I ordered you back to your stations."
After that, the away team moves around the transporter room efficiently, pulling off their phasers and making for the exit as quickly as they are able.
"You will all attend the debriefing tomorrow at 0800," Kirk says. "Hopefully your questions will be answered then."
"I believe I can have the debrief ready by 1500 hours today," Spock replies, his voice loud enough to carry. Nyota turns to him from the exit, her eyes wide. She purses her lips, clearly trying to communicate something non-verbally to Spock. "If you would prefer, Captain, in the name of expediency, to call the debriefing at such a time."
Kirk is facing away from him at this moment, so Spock cannot search his facial expressions for clues to his human emotions, but he does come to a stop at Spock's words. He does flex his hands once, twice, before he speaks again.
"That would be awesome," he says, in a voice that suggests the opposite is true. "Thank you, Commander."
"Thanks are unnecessary."
"Yeah, you've mentioned that before."
And with that, he departs, Nyota and Giotto moving out of his way as he hurries out. Spock is tempted to refer to his movement as "storming away," however that descriptor is very illogical, never mind that Spock has likened Kirk to a storm in his mind on more than one occasion. For two point seven seconds, those remaining in the transporter room are motionless. Then, Martine lets out a long breath and follows Kirk out. After that, the others file out.
The transporter technician huffs out a laugh to the almost empty room.
"Do you find something particularly humorous, Ensign?" Spock asks sharply.
"No sir," she is quick to respond. "Sorry sir."
When Spock arrives on the bridge, it is almost unnaturally silent. The ship is already in motion, the stars streaking across the viewscreen merely elongated flashes of light. They remind Spock, suddenly, of sitting out in the desert before his home on Shi’kahr with Mother as she pointed out the asteroids that would frequently penetrate Vulcan’s thin atmosphere. She had called them ‘shooting stars,’ which had puzzled Spock at seven. Now at twenty nine, watching as Enterprise shoots past the stars around them, he thinks the name to be quite apt.
He wishes she were still around to tell her she was right.
He takes a deep breath in and releases it slowly, slow enough that it cannot quite constitute a sigh, and turns back to his station.
“What is our destination, Captain?” he asks without looking up.
“Star charting,” he responds, pointing to the viewscreen. “That way.”
“That is hardly a specific destination, Captain,” Spock says, eager to submerse himself in work to banish the lingering sense of loss he only just inflicted upon himself.
“Two parsecs out of Beta Caeli,” he says tersely. Spock believes he is still somewhat dissatisfied with the outcome of the incident on Catulla. It is understandable. “Shouldn’t you be working on that debriefing, Commander?”
“I am capable of appropriately scheduling my time, Captain,” Spock says unthinkingly. “I will have a multitude of time to compile the debriefing report after my shift. I would suggest you do the same with your time, to avoid such time-management issues you accuse me of.”
There is a different human expression that comes to mind then; that of “biting one’s tongue,” for mere nanoseconds after the last word has escaped his lips, Spock knows he should not have spoken so candidly.
“Commander Spock,” Kirk says, his voice surprisingly light. For a moment Spock thinks he will engage in a human pleasantry and remark on the temperature around them. “I think your expert opinion may be required in the science labs right now. You better go down there and check.”
Spock does not move from his console. In fact, he does not bother to look up from his idling station—if he is not vigilant there may be an anomaly in this stretch of empty space he may miss from this inefficacious exchange with the captain. Spock calculates the statistical probability of such an incident occurring (point zero-zero-five percent) before offering Captain Kirk a response.
“There are no experiments in the Science Department that require my personal supervision at this juncture, Captain.”
Which is fact; Spock only just met with the department heads two full shift rotations ago.
“Spock,” the captain begins. For being a psi-null individual, Spock can feel the captain’s anger prickling against the back of his neck, anger that had not been there mere moments ago. He imagines the captain is clenching his fists tightly against the armrests of his command chair, but does not bother to look up from his station. “That wasn’t a suggestion.”
He has a sudden, illogical urge to refuse to comply even with this direct command. He knows that they are both angry. Empirically, he knows that ordering Spock off the bridge is the captain’s attempt to allow them both an opportunity to separate so they will not—in Kirk’s case—say something they might later regret. However, Spock is angry (angry because he does not know why Kirk is angry, because he is tired of all of the bickering and tension on the bridge, because he does not know how to fix this), and the gesture seems strangely irrelevant. A tense moment passes on the bridge where everyone watches them and no one moves. Eventually, Spock stands, unable to ignore a direct command from his superior officer. He pulls at the hem of his uniform shirt sharply before clasping his hands behind his back.
“Then, if you would excuse me, Captain, my presence is required on deck four.”
“Of course, Mister Spock,” the captain answers tightly. He swivels around to face the viewscreen and crosses his arms. “Don’t let us keep you.”
Spock does not report to deck four where he is certain his presence is not required. Instead, he instructs the turbolift to take him to medbay and ignores logic when it tells him he is behaving petulantly.
Enterprise’s Chief Medical Officer is treating a yeoman while arguing with one of his nurses. They do not appear to notice him, although Nurse Chapel does smile when she rushes past him with a tray of medical supplies at hand. Spock takes a seat in the small waiting alcove, where a very young engineer sits squirming silently beside him. Spock spends four point seven-three minutes trying to remember her name.
“Well, well, well,” Doctor McCoy says. “If it isn’t our executive officer himself.” He turns to the engineer and rolls his eyes. “Ortiz,” he says. “If there’s anyone on this ship who’s more accident-prone than the captain, it’d be you.”
Ortiz blushes faintly around a scowl and crosses her arms over her chest.
“I’m here for my full physical, sir,” she says. “Nurse Langston said—”
The doctor waves the explanation away and motions to Spock to follow him.
“Of course, Ensign,” McCoy says. “If you’ll excuse us.”
Spock follows the doctor into his office, watches as he circles around his desk and collapses into his seat with a deep sigh.
“Let me guess, Commander,” the doctor says as he swivels side to side in his chair. It reminds Spock immediately of Kirk and does nothing to ease Spock’s discomfort. “You’re here about the captain.”
At Spock’s terse silence, the Doctor merely laughs.
“You know, of the two of you, I didn’t think you’d be the first to come asking for my advice.”
“Doctor,” Spock begins, unsure how to respond to the previous statement, “as Captain and First Officer, Captain Kirk and I by necessity share a unique relationship, and under the somewhat unorthodox circumstances in which we briefly worked together—”
“You mean saving the whole damn world wasn’t enough to make you two buddies?”
“I have no need for ‘buddies,’ Doctor,” Spock answers tightly.
He does not mention that friendship was perhaps one of the main reasons he accepted the position aboard Enterprise, and that finding a relationship so different from that of his alternate’s is both startling and frustrating.
“So what are you here for, then?” It takes Spock longer than he would have expected to formulate a response to such a direct question. The doctor takes it upon himself to fill the silence before he can come up with a concise response. Spock notes how the man sighs audibly and leans both his elbows on his desk. “Let me guess. After you two killed Nero and became Super Space Heroes, you thought everything would be, I don’t know, rainbows and ice cream. Only it’s not. And you didn’t expect to want to kill him on a regular basis out here?”
“I do not frequently entertain murderous intentions toward the captain,” is all Spock can think of to say.
“That’s good,” Kirk’s voice says from the doorway behind him. Spock turns sharply and sees the captain leaning against the doorframe in a deceptively casual manner. “Because then I think we’d have a problem, Commander.”
It is physically impossible for the captain’s gaze to burn Spock in any way, and yet the metaphor seems surprisingly apt as Kirk’s eyes sweep up and down his rigid form. Doctor McCoy swears under his breath and stands, moving around the desk to stand between the two of them. Spock calculates the likelihood of a physical altercation occurring between them, recalculates to factor in McCoy’s apprehensive glare and the quiet, unreadable expression on Kirk’s face.
“I thought you were reporting to the deck four, Commander,” Kirk begins when Spock says “Do you believe it wise to leave the bridge without its Captain?” almost simultaneously.
“Are you kidding me?” the captain says. “I came down to talk to Bones, not to continue an argument I thought we’d settled—”
“Ordering me off the bridge is a petulant and childish way to settle an argument, Captain, and if that is your idea of—”
“Okay wow, did you seriously just call your commanding officer petulant?”
“Need I remind you that it was you who disrespected your Executive Officer on the bridge mere moments ago, Captain, with albeit sufficient provocation—”
“You’re the one who’s always belittling my command decisions in front of the crew! It’s not my fault that the only way I can keep from shooting you out an airlock is—”
“All right, you two need to stop,” McCoy finally says, forcefully pulling Kirk away from where he has stepped into Spock’s personal space. He turns to Spock and says—with only mild irony, Spock thinks—“I can see how even your hobgoblin brain could see you need help. I mean, god damn, you two, how old are you?”
“Hey!” the captain says, refocusing his attention on the doctor while Spock reminds himself that Doctor McCoy has a habit of baiting people.
“Shut it, Jim,” the doctor says sharply. “You know damn well you wouldn’t have come down here during your shift to bitch at me unless you were really pissed off. And you shouldn’t be so pissed off at your second-in-command.”
Doctor McCoy stops himself, and a slow, vaguely threatening smile begins to spread over his face. Kirk seems to realize that this is an ill omen of sorts, as he frowns and begins to subtly shuffle away.
“Bones?” he says. “Bones, whatever you’re thinking right now, stop.”
“Oh no, Jimmy,” McCoy answers. Roughly, he places his hand on the captain’s shoulder and shakes him while the captain grimaces. “I have just the solution for you two.”
Doctor McCoy’s solution, when revealed in its entirety, appears to irritate Captain Kirk quite profusely. For once, Spock finds himself agreeing with the captain. Spock has been willing to admit that his relationship with Captain Kirk is not ideal, but he has hoped that over time they would be able to come to some sort of agreement. Involving a third party could potentially worsen the situation.
Then again, Mother believed almost religiously in the power of communication. Perhaps a mediator might help them have a conversation that does not devolve into useless bickering.
Kirk is not so optimistic on the matter.
(“Couples’ counseling?” Kirk responds with clear disdain when they are first told of the idea. “We’re not a married couple, Bones!”
“Yeah, but if you don’t work out your problems divorce might be the only solution. And I don’t think anyone wants to figure out visitation rights for a crew this large.”
“Your analogies suck, Bones.”)
Eventually, however, after swearing both Doctor McCoy and Spock to secrecy, the captain agrees to meet with one of the ship’s counselors. From what Spock understands, they are to participate in what is referred to as Integrative Marital Intensive Therapy, six two-hour long sessions after an initial meeting with the counselor. Spock finds that he is somewhat daunted by the prospect of spending so much time off-duty with the captain, but acquiesces to the requirements and schedules a meeting around his and Kirk’s schedules.
Spock is outside of the psychiatric ward four full days later, waiting for their appointment with Eloise Vrinda, one of the ship’s counselors. Kirk has yet to arrive, and Spock calculates the probability of the captain ignoring their Chief Medical Officer’s orders to come here.
“Commander Spock,” a young yeoman says at that moment. “The counselor will see you now.”
The office is small; it has a single viewport that has been covered by a traditional Betazoid tapestry. The lights have been lowered slightly, presumably to make the room appear less sterile and more accommodating.
Counselor Vrinda is sitting in a plush armchair, smiling placidly as he enters. Her hair is pulled back into a severe bun, highlighting her sharp cheekbones and large, black eyes. Spock watches them dart over his entire frame. A frown passes over her features for a moment before she shakes her head, smiles, and motions for him to sit.
Apprehension is not logical, he assures himself. The captain would not disobey the doctor’s orders, nor would he ignore the advice of a friend. However, Spock feels very much alone as he comes up behind the two empty chairs.
“Commander Spock, welcome,” she says. “Please, sit; you’re just in time. The captain should be along any minute now.”
Spock sits. Forty-three seconds pass in silence before Counselor Vrinda speaks again.
“Commander, was hoping we could talk about you for a while.”
“If you believe it to be necessary within the context of these sessions, then your suggestion is acceptable.”
“Great,” she says, clapping her hands and leaning forward in her seat expectantly. “Tell me about Nyota Uhura.”
Taken aback, he studies the tapestry behind her seat and does not reply at once. The beginnings of a headache are starting to curl up along the underside of his skull. It is making it difficult for Spock to concentrate.
“Lieutenant Uhura is a capable officer and unparalleled in her field of study. I was her thesis advisor at Starfleet Academy prior to our assignments on Enterprise.”
Counselor Vrinda picks up her PADD and frowns down at it.
“I meant your romantic relationship,” she says.
“We have none to speak of.”
There is a continued silence after Spock’s proclamation. For twelve seconds Vrinda watches him, as if she does not entirely believe him. Spock cannot understand why; while he is not entirely Vulcan and therefore quite capable of lying, he sees no reason to do so when the simple truth will suffice. Nyota and he have, at length, discussed the possibility of a romantic relationship. They ultimately decided, just weeks before Enterprise was set to launch, that it would not be in either of their best interests.
“Does that bother you?” she asks at length, watching his reaction closely.
“I am Vulcan,” Spock says. “I have no feelings on the matter.”
There is a sharp surge of pain along the right side of his skull, just behind his eye as he says this. He makes a mental note to meditate after this session. At that moment, the Captain saunters in, clearly unconcerned that he is over ten minutes late to their appointment. There is tension along the lines of his neck and shoulders, and Spock wonders if Kirk has been to see Doctor McCoy, in a futile attempt to dissuade the doctor on his decision.
“Afternoon, Counselor, Commander,” he says lightly, his mood betrayed by the way his hands are clenched into fists at his side.
“Please, call me Eloise, Captain,” Counselor Vrinda says, smiling widely. “Have a seat; you’re just in time.”
The captain sprawls into the seat beside Spock, his hands linked behind his head to support it. Spock suppresses a flicker of irritation at Kirk’s casual demeanor. There is no offense in the way he is sitting; the logical explanation is that his persistent headache is making him more susceptible to fleeting emotions.
“So Doc,” the captain says, placing unusual emphasis on the word ‘Doc,’ “how are we going to do this thing?”
“Generally, you two talk, and I listen.”
“Right,” is Kirk’s response. There appears to be an underlying hostility to the word, although Spock cannot be entirely certain. “That easy, huh?”
“Ideally, this shouldn’t be difficult at all,” Vrinda says. “As easy as having a normal conversation.”
The captain scoffs at that.
“Good luck having a conversation with the likes of us.”
Vrinda smiles. She clasps her hands together again and regards the Captain intently.
“Why would that be, do you think?” she asks
“You would know,” Kirk answers dismissively. “McCoy gave you access to our psychological records, didn’t he?”
“I’m aware of your psychological profiles, yes,” Vrinda answers slowly, cocking her head to the side as her gaze slides from Kirk to Spock and back again. “But that still doesn’t really answer my question, does it?”
“The commander here,” he motions with a quick jerk of his head towards Spock, “doesn’t exactly have the best people skills. And I’m not exactly the picture of etiquette, either.”
Vrinda turns to Spock again, her gaze ushering in a fresh wave of pressure in his skull.
“And what do you think, Commander?”
“I have not had any pressing issues with any other of the crew. With the exception of the captain, I find my interpersonal communication skills to be adequate.”
Which is not precisely accurate, but for the purposes of this discussion, the statement will suffice. The captain scoffs at that, disbelief written clearly across the sharp jut of his jaw.
“And why do you think that is?”
“I believe if either of us knew the answer to that, we would not be in your office at present.”
Counselor Vrinda frowns then. For a moment, Spock feels light-headed; the room tilts dangerously on its axis as an alien thought suffuses his mind. He has the sudden urge to cooperate, completely contrary to his natural impulses. The captain laughs, surely at his previous comment while Spock attempts to regulate his breathing.
“For once I agree with my First Officer,” Kirk says, but it sounds distant for a minute.
Spock finds he has difficulty concentrating on the conversation for a moment—he is not sure of the exact time, and that alone is enough to worry him.
“Captain, Commander, I know this must be difficult for you both—”
“Look at us, agreeing like we’re all about to die,” Kirk says, cutting off the counselor. She scowls deeply for a moment, but Kirk does not appear to notice. He stands abruptly, feet shoulder-width apart, as if he is preparing for an altercation. “Looks like we’re cured! If you two’ll excuse me, I’ve got a ship to run.”
Before Vrinda can utter a single rebuff, the captain has rushed out the door. It shuts after him quietly, and the silence that descends upon the room is rather like that of an approaching storm.
“I too find that I must depart,” Spock says in a moment where he regains total equilibrium. When he is sure he will not sway on his feet, he stands and clasps his hands behind his back. “I will confer with the captain at a later date to find an appropriate time for our next session. If you would excuse me.”
He exits the counselor’s office quickly, ignoring the sweep of vertigo he feels as he leaves. When the door finally swishes closed behind him, Spock takes exactly twelve seconds to breathe deeply and refocus his mind before he starts off towards Doctor McCoy’s office.
When Spock was young, the healers of Shi’Kahr had believed Spock to have little to no telepathic capabilities. They did not expect for Spock to be one of the most powerful telepaths to be born within the century. It is not exaggeration, nor self-flattery, for Spock to say that he has in all probability the most disciplined mind on all of Enterprise. As such, Spock knows when another telepathic or empathic being is attempting any sort of communication with him.
Counselor Vrinda is Betazoid. Spock had not been aware of this before their session. Neither had he been aware Betazoids could use their empathic abilities to attempt to persuade other individuals to change their emotional states.
It is somewhat disconcerting. He will have to speak with Vrinda before their next session and ask her not to invade his privacy.
He reaches medical bay and stops shortof Doctor McCoy’s office. Spock should have anticipated that by “running a ship,” the captain actually meant “conferring with the CMO.” Spock stands to the right of the open doorway and listens for a moment.
“I don’t want to see a shrink,” Kirk’s voice says tersely. “I don’t care if this is just, what, some kind of way to humiliate your best friend, sending him to a marriage counselor with the XO who hates him, but I’m not doing it again.”
There is a long silence after that proclamation. Spock wonders at what they are not saying, at a friendship that has survived so much that they can communicate, even argue, nonverbally. For a moment, he feels the first flickering of jealousy, that Kirk and McCoy share such rapport when Spock himself knows no one so intimately.
“She’s not there to psychoanalyze you personally, Jim,” McCoy says at length. “Her job right now is to make you and Spock act like the mature adults you should be.”
“I resent that,” Kirk says, but no longer is there an underlying tension in his voice. There are sounds of movement from inside, the heavy scraping of a chair, a pair of footsteps no doubt moving away from the desk. “I’ve got to get back to the bridge.”
“Go, before the hobgoblin catches you cluttering up my sickbay again.”
“You shouldn’t call him that,” Kirk says, but he is laughing as he says it.
Spock retreats to a far corner and waits until Captain Kirk’s footsteps have faded into silence before he returns to enter the Doctor’s office.
McCoy is still seated at his desk, idly scanning his PADD. As the door to his office closes softly, he looks up and scowls.
“Sometimes I don’t get how you two don’t get along,” he says, gruffly. “I swear, there’re times when I feel like you’re the same goddamn person.”
“I find that remark—insulting,” Spock says, only because he cannot quite think up an appropriate response. At any rate, Spock’s reply has the doctor sputtering in outrage, and so has had the expected response.
“Just what do you want then, Commander?” McCoy asks.
Spock takes a single, hesitant step forward. When he notices the doctor put down his PADD and give Spock his full attention, Spock clasps his hands behind his back.
“I fear I am also in need of your assurances,” Spock says, stilted.
McCoy watches him for several long seconds; Spock does not move nor break eye contact until the doctor speaks again.
“Jim wouldn’t like it if he knew you’d been spying on his conversations.”
“That was not my purpose,” Spock responds. “If you are implying that I followed the captain to your office with the intention of eavesdropping on his private conversations, then you are very much mistaken. My sole motivation here was to speak with you directly.”
“Why Spock, I’m flattered,” McCoy says; Spock cannot detect any irony in his tone, but with the Doctor, one can never be sure.
“No flattery was intended.”
“Well, you sure as hell know how to charm,” McCoy grumbles. “So what did you need?”
For a moment, Spock hesitates to explain. It is not rational to hesitate; McCoy is Chief Medical Officer and as such is bound to protect his patient’s privacy. On Enterprise, that means he is duty-bound to anyone on board who comes to him for assistance. Still, he finds that even with such irrefutable assurance he is reluctant to confide in the doctor.
“There are some things which are best kept private,” Spock finally says. It is a vague statement, and he abhors it even as he utters it. He finds, however, that once he has expressed his concern—even in such an imprecise manner—the tension around his neck and shoulders is eased somewhat. “She has every right to ask the captain and myself questions that are related to our working dynamic.”
“Just not if it has anything to do with your personal life,” McCoy finishes, his expression still guarded.
“Has it occurred to you that as a counselor, she would need to understand both of you individually before being able to figure out what problems exist in your and Jim’s relationship?”
“Counselor Vrinda is empathic,” Spock begins, unwilling to admit that he has no real response to offer McCoy. “However, there is a difference between taking advantage of an inherent trait and behaving in an insidious manner.”
That statement does manage to capture the doctor’s attention. He sits up and leans his elbows heavily against his desk, dark eyes trained on him intently. He reminds Spock for a moment—albeit a bit illogically—of a Terran bear, one whose cubs have been threatened.
“What do you mean, ‘insidious'?”
“I only mean to ask that she refrain from attempting to coerce either myself or the captain in any empathic way.”
McCoy is quiet for a moment. He leans back in his chair and frowns deeply.
“You’re sure that’s what she did?”
Yes, Spock thinks, but hesitates. For a moment, he experiences doubt. It is an entirely logical supposition that Spock may be jumping to conclusions. Further evidence is required before he can make such a claim.
“I am not sure,” he finally decides. “Our first session ended abruptly and much sooner than scheduled. I cannot with confidence support such a claim.”
“Ever the scientist, Commander,” McCoy says, some of the irritation melting away from his voice. “I’ll talk to her.”
“Such an action would be most logical, Doctor.”
“Yeah, well, get out of my office before people start to think we’re actually getting along.”
He nods once and stands, pleased that they have so expediently reached the termination of their conversation.
“My presence is required in the science labs.”
He leaves quickly, to Doctor McCoy’s incoherent grumbles. There are three point four hours left until he is scheduled for bridge duty. He intends to spend it researching in tandem with his team of specialized robotics engineers.
One point seven weeks later, Spock receives a message from the captain approximately three hours and six minutes into beta shift. It is rare that Captain Kirk and he are working during Beta shift, as Kirk does not often take shifts other than Alpha. It is not uncommon for the captain to send messages to Spock during beta shift and the occasional Gamma shift, when he is not on-duty and a work-related question occurs to him. It is unusual, however, for Captain Kirk to send him such a message while they are both on duty. Spock looks up from where he has been finishing the report of their last mission. The captain is studiously scrolling through a document on his PADD; although he does not look up from his work, there is a slight smile on his face
Against his better judgment, Spock finds his curiosity has been piqued. He opens the message.
It wont take our beCu a lot o tym. eerie tides hoUl dead girth, when? fog climbs
im JusT a briKki seer.
It is the most nonsensical communication the captain has ever relayed to him. He wonders if Kirk has not perhaps taken ill.
Captain, I am unsure of the meaning of your previous message. I would recommend a trip to sickbay if you are feeling unwell. However, if you would perhaps elucidate your point in a more comprehensible manner, I would be happy to assist you.
Kirk does not look up from his work, although Spock does note that a small frown crosses his face momentarily before he smirks again.
You're the genius, the next message says. You figure it out.
Spock does not feel a sharp flame of annoyance at that. Rather, he closes the message and tries not to think on it for the remainder of his shift. As has been the case since the beginning of their five year mission, beta shift passes without any noteworthy incident. However, Spock is concerned that his efficiency during the shift dropped by three point four percent.
When he reaches his quarters, Spock uses the hours he normally reserves for meditation to further examine the message Captain Kirk sent him earlier. Spock is not irritated that he cannot decode Kirk’s encrypted message by the next Alpha shift. In fact, he has no feelings whatsoever on the matter, although he does allow himself a sense of satisfaction when he at last unscrambles the message (late during Beta shift three days later, during the time he normally allots himself for sleep).
Once deciphered, the message reads
Commander, how long will it take you to decode this? I bet Uhura gets it before you.
James Tiberius Kirk
He sends Nyota a missive minutes after he has unscrambled the message, because while it is one of the very few letter combinations available that form two coherent sentences, the message nevertheless makes very little sense. He does not receive an answer immediately, which is understandable considering it is very near 0200 hours already. His only logical course of action, then, is to send a message to the Captain.
Is there any particular reason why you chose to send Nyota Uhura a message encrypted similarly to the one you sent me?
He receives a message almost immediately, which means that the captain is either working Gamma shift now or is unable to sleep. He wonders why it matters.
Took you long enough to figure it out, Kirk’s message reads. We took a cryptography class together at the Academy, and she sort of hated that I was as good at it as she was.
Spock was never required to take any such course, and so thinks that he is justified in struggling to solve the captain’s encrypted message.
I, myself, have never been particularly proficient with ciphers, he types.
It takes several moments—four minutes and thirty eight seconds—for Kirk to respond to Spock’s message, and when he does, it is merely with a string of seemingly unrelated numbers. Spock feels a flicker of something that is very much not exasperation.
Are you on the bridge, Captain?
Nope, is Kirk’s response. Can’t get to sleep, but that’s nothing new to me.
It is prudent for a starship Captain to be well-rested, sir.
Kirk takes even longer to respond to that. The statements he sends Spock are neutral; nevertheless, Spock receives a distinct impression of hostility from them.
Right, I guess you think it’s wrong for the Captain of a starship to be cursed by insomnia. Like unbecoming or inappropriate or something.
If you are having trouble sleeping, I would recommend conferring with medical.
Spock means only to express his concern over the captain’s inability to sleep, but the silence Spock receives in answer is nearly defiant, argumentative somehow. It is illogical to attribute feelings to inanimate objects, much less digital silences, and yet Spock cannot quite help himself. He does not know what in their short conversation he said to have offended the captain, not even after he looks through their communication history—twice.
He studies the number sequence for a very long time that night and makes very little progress decoding it.
“I want to talk about your crew.”
They are once again sitting together in Counselor Vrinda’s office. Spock raises his eyebrow at Vrinda’s line of questioning, but as he has had no previous experience with psychology, he cannot discern if her question is unorthodox.
“What do you want to know about them?” Kirk asks, his arms crossed over his chest in a form of defensiveness.
“How do you think they feel about the relationship you two foster on the bridge?”
Kirk exhales quickly, not quite a laugh. Spock raises an eyebrow.
“What relationship?” the captain asks. “If you’re asking how I think they cope with us wanting to murder each other every day, then I’d say pretty shitty.”
“I have already informed you, sir, that I do not have any murderous intentions towards your person.”
“Right,” Kirk says, in a way that Spock assumes is meant to be ironic or sarcastic.
“Do you think Commander Spock is lying, Captain?” Vrinda asks pleasantly.
“Vulcans don’t lie,” Kirk responds. He turns to Spock and appraises him, perhaps more deeply than Spock had thought him capable of. “But then, Spock’s not altogether Vulcan, is he?”
It is not logical to become angry at the mere statement of fact. Indeed, Spock has reiterated this fact to himself on numerous occasions. Yet, when Kirk says it, it sounds like an insult.
“You are angry,” Vrinda says then, a note of surprise in her voice. Spock looks up from where he has been studying the arm of his chair to see a look that is very near pleased on her face.
“There is no need to insult me, Counselor,” Spock responds stiffly.
“No, you misunderstand, Commander,” she says happily. “You are angry. I can feel it. I have been worried for you, of late, because I couldn’t feel your emotions very strongly.”
“I take issue with the insinuation that my Vulcan upbringing is in some way inferior to that of an empathic culture.”
“I didn’t mean to offend.”
“Your concern is misplaced,” Spock responds. “I am merely pointing out the fallacies of your own argument, Counselor. I have not taken offense.”
Kirk takes that moment to snort, a habit Spock has noticed occurs when Kirk believes those around him to be lying.
“Bullshit,” he says. “I’ve got news for you, Commander. That right there? It’s called a feeling. Congratulations, you’ve just experienced an emotion. Two in one day; must be some kind of record for you.”
“Captain, you can’t—” Vrinda starts, but Spock finds he has no desire to remain, even to hear the remainder of Vrinda’s statement.
“Do not begin to assume you understand my inner workings, Captain,” Spock says quietly. He turns to Counselor Vrinda, who is frowning. “I am not versed in psychology, and therefore have little to offer in the way of input. However, if the way you conduct your therapy sessions, Counselor, is by antagonizing your patients, then I find myself reluctant to continue. Excuse me.”
Spock stands quickly, ignoring the way Vrinda copies the movement and raises her arms as if to stay him. Kirk does not move from his sprawled position on his chair. He departs.
“See?” it is Kirk’s voice Spock can still hear, filtering through the door he just exited. “You can’t win with him!”
“James Kirk,” Vrinda’s voice says, loud enough to linger even as Spock walks away. “We need to talk.” Her voice is loud enough that Spock could listen in to the conversation in its entirety if he so chooses.
He does not.
Every shift rotation, after Spock has completed meditating or just before he retires to sleep, he spends exactly forty five minutes analyzing the sequence of numbers Kirk sent him. There is a stubbornly introspective need to prove to Kirk that he can solve this new riddle. It is not logical to be competitive over this matter, and yet Spock finds he cannot help himself. If he were to examine this compulsion, he would say it is a very human matter, one that stems from the human need for acceptance and respect from one’s superiors.
Spock is not human. He is allowing himself to realize, however, that he is not Vulcan either. It is interesting that such a fundamental fact—written across Spock’s genes from the moment of his gestation—should have taken over two decades to be understood. With this new perspective, however, Spock can now accept that while this compulsive need, in a Vulcan, would be considered a grave shortcoming, in a human is commonplace and even expected. Since Spock is neither, but rather an amalgamation different from the sum of its parts, the only logical assessment is that Spock’s temporary slips of control, the ones that allow him to feel competitive, irritated, grief-stricken, are completely acceptable.
As such, he has no qualms with examining Kirk’s cipher for extended periods of time, nor does he suppress his irritation at being unable to solve it at first.
He can also accept the irony that it was Captain Kirk who first spoke those words aloud, as Spock has been unable to say them to himself before.
“I am not human,” Spock says into his empty quarters. “And I am not Vulcan.”
It is surprisingly difficult to say such a statement aloud, despite its validity. He considers his own dichotomy, being and not being both human and Vulcan, before returning to the captain’s scrambled message.
Eventually, he does decrypt the communication, which merely reads my numbers are less logical than yours.
Spock is halfway through his response to the captain’s message when he realizes that he will in fact be seeing Kirk within the next twenty-five minutes. An electronic communication would be perhaps be unnecessary at this point in time, and so he closes the message, refusing to believe that his slow movements are reluctant.
Kirk too is on his way to the bridge. He is talking with Lieutenant Sulu and Ensign Chekov as Spock approaches them. Chekov greets Spock with the same amount of enthusiasm he has every morning when they share bridge duty, while Sulu waves casually at his arrival. Kirk nods to him in acknowledgment and falls silent as they walk.
Curiously, Spock finds himself reluctant to mention their out-of-work messages among company, even if said company consists of only two separate parties. It is illogical, perhaps, but a small (possibly human) part of his psyche believes these communications between them are oddly personal. It is a possessive thought, that he does not want to share these instances with anyone but the captain. He examines the thought in further detail while Sulu and Chekov resume their conversation on a human card game known colloquially as “poker.”
“You should join us one day, Jim,” Sulu says as they all crowd into the turbolift.
Kirk laughs then, a small, half-hearted sound.
“And leave my bridge crew broke?” he asks. “I don’t know, Sulu. If you all could make it worth my while, then maybe.”
“Mr. Spock, you are always welcome,” Chekov adds.
At that moment the turbolift doors slide open; Kirk is the first one to exit.
“I’m sure the Commander has more important things to do,” he says, the back of his ears flushing pink.
“Indeed,” Spock says, watching the captain as he throws himself into his chair. “However, your offer will be noted for a later date, Mr. Chekov.”
Spock steps out, and as he moves towards his station he hears Chekov whisper to Sulu.
“See? He can be nice, Hikaru.”
“Yeah, to you, Pavel,” is Sulu’s quiet response. Spock concentrates on his station and does not listen to the rest of their conversation.
Three hours into the shift, Spock gives in to his stubborn urge and sends Kirk a message, taking care to use the same coding method the captain had previously.
Preliminary research into Old Terran ciphers eventually yielded a solution to your message, Captain.
He tries to keep his attention on his station after he sends the message, but the captain’s sharp inhalation is audible over the momentary silence around them. When he turns to Kirk’s chair, he finds bright blue eyes turned towards him, very clear and very hopeful. Kirk blinks, and when he turns his attention back to his PADD Spock is left with a vaguely restless, almost anxious sensation in his stomach. It is not altogether unpleasant, yet he has no name for it.
Because of Spock’s work schedule, his shift ends fifty-eight minutes later. He heads to the Science department and tries not to think of the slight smile that had lingered on Kirk’s face, or the fact that the most pleasant conversation they have had to date has been one where they neither spoke to one another nor maintained eye contact for more than four point four seconds.
Counselor Vrinda cancels their next session. She sends Spock a message with no explanation for the occurrence (this is a lie; he can admit as much to himself. He has not opened the message from Counselor Vrinda). At the next available juncture Spock goes to the psychology department to speak with her face-to-face. One of Vrinda’s yeomen—Spock has interacted with her on several occasions and still cannot remember her name—explains that she left to speak with McCoy not fifteen minutes ago. Spock thanks her and heads up to medical.
However, when he reaches Doctor McCoy’s office, Counselor Vrinda is not evident. Instead, Kirk is pacing around the length of the room, clearly upset, while McCoy watches him, a PADD gripped tightly in his hands. Kirk does not notice Spock at the door, but McCoy’s eyes do dart to him once before turning back to Kirk’s clearly agitated form.
“She can’t do this; it’s got to go against her psychologist code or something,” Kirk says. “Right?”
“She’s well within her rights,” McCoy answers softly.
“I think she’s just got it in for Spock. Can’t we do something?”
“Eloise is a professional,” McCoy says. “She wouldn’t let her own biases get in the way of her work.”
“So why was she just in here telling you how terrible Spock is at cooperating and—”
“That’s not what she said and you know it.”
“If Counselor Vrinda spoke with you on a subject pertaining to or related to me, Doctor, then I would appreciate full disclosure,” Spock says.
Kirk starts at the sound of his voice, whips around to face him and shakes his head, disbelief etched clearly over his face.
“Sweet fuck, Spock,” he breathes, running a hand over his face, “can’t you knock?”
“Come in, Commander,” McCoy grumbles. “Might as well.”
Spock enters the office, now becoming more familiar to him than his own sparingly used office in Sciences, and stands one point eight meters away from where Captain Kirk has stopped pacing.
“Have you spoken with Vrinda?” Kirk asks.
“Not since our previous session,” Spock answers. “At the time, we had a disagreement on the efficacy of psychiatry, telepathy, and empathy.”
“Disagreement,” Kirk repeats faintly. He turns to McCoy. “Right. Spock, she’s just been down here slandering—”
“Eloise,” McCoy interrupts sharply, “came to talk to me. She’s doubting her abilities to help you two.”
“Has she permanently cancelled our counseling sessions?”
The silence that greets him is more than answer enough. Spock studies the floor seven inches to the left of his shoe, unwilling to make eye contact with either man. It is not logical to feel shame over Counselor Vrinda’s beliefs. He thinks back on their discussion earlier. Counselor Vrinda’s course of action was the most logical option available to her, based on her fundamentals.
“I’m going to lodge a complaint with her department head,” Kirk says, his voice low and angry. “She can’t treat my commanding officer that way—”
“Jim, I’ve already told you, she just did what she thought was best!”
“The Doctor is right, Captain,” Spock finally forces himself to say. He lifts his gaze from the floor to inspect the Doctor’s desk. “Counselor Vrinda’s decision was very logical.”
“Eloise sent a message directly to the Head of Psychology. Miranda’s already spoken with me and agreed to meet with you two,” McCoy says. He turns to Spock. “If that’ll work for the two of you.”
“That will be acceptable.”
Finally, Spock looks up. Kirk is standing very still on the opposite end of the desk, hands fisted tightly at his sides. Spock can see his jaw clenching, working perhaps to keep unsavory statements from escaping.
“I still don’t like it,” he says, locking eyes with Spock. “It’ll get mentioned in her eval, you two can be sure of that.”
“I don’t doubt it, Jim,” McCoy says. He crosses to Kirk and places a hand on his shoulder. When he speaks again, his voice is surprisingly gentle. “Go on, Jim. You should get some rest. Don’t make me make it an order.”
Spock wonders when the last time the captain slept. His schedule is closely synchronized to ship’s time, although he has been known to work double shifts. Kirk mumbles something and turns to leave, but Spock places himself in Kirk’s path, forcing the man to look at him again.
“Captain,” Spock starts and stops himself. Some of Kirk’s anger seems to have disappeared, as he is almost smiling as he regards Spock. “Your concern over my well-being is noted and appreciated.”
The captain flushes at that; he runs a hand through his hair and smiles—a flash of bright teeth—before he speaks.
“Yeah, well, I’ve got to go.”
“I too, have business I must attend to,” Spock admits. He nods once to McCoy and Kirk before he makes his exit.
McCoy says something after Spock has left, but his voice is pitched too low, and Spock is too far away to really hear what it is he says.
Miranda Jones is telepathic. Spock can feel it the moment she enters Doctor McCoy’s office, her mind whispering across the corners of Spock’s telepathic periphery. She turns to him upon her entrance, milky-blue eyes quickly going over his entire frame. She wears a long sensory web over her uniform, draping over her pants like a cloak. Her hair is only just regulation, with half pulled away from her eyes and ears and half cascading down her back in a dark curtain of curls. It hides the four nodes surgically implanted along her neck. Spock knows it hides where her sensory web connects to key neurons in her spinal cord, allowing her to see.
She has studied on Vulcan. Spock can recall the way his mother would speak of her in his years before Starfleet, the approving lilt of her voice all those years ago. It is for this reason alone that Spock has agreed to meet with her as a suitable replacement for Counselor Vrinda.
McCoy and Kirk are also present, and Jones sweeps her gaze over them as well, her milky gaze lingering over McCoy before she sits.
“Eloise has informed me of the situation,” she says in an airy voice. “She asked me to relay her deepest condolences that she was unable to help with your situation.”
Kirk grumbles something incoherent to himself, but for once offers no comment. Doctor McCoy scowls at him darkly before he turns to Jones and explains quickly what would be required of her.
It is relatively simple to explain the situation to Doctor Jones. At last, Doctor McCoy stops and gestures for her to speak. Jones rubs at the back of her neck thoughtfully, toying with one of the nodes in her neck.
"I think the situation is fixable," she finally says.
"Great," McCoy says, and abruptly stands, both his hands running down his shirt as if he is wiping away dust. "My shift's just ended. So, I'll be in the mess if you all need me."
With that, he exits.
"I have time available at the end of the week, if you're both free then, to begin," Jones says as if she hardly noticed McCoy's exit.
"I'll check my schedule," Kirk says.
"I too, must consult my schedule to find the most appropriate time in which we could meet," Spock adds.
"All right," Jones says. "But first, I have something for you both to do." She pauses here, studying them both with equal curiosity. "I want the captain to go to four of Commander Spock's closest friends and ask them why they're friends with him. Commander, I'd like for you to do the same with the captain's friends."
"What good will that do?" Kirk asks tightly.
"Some, hopefully," she answers dismissively. "Mostly, it'll get you both thinking about the other's good qualities, instead of the negative."
"Right," Kirk says, but either Jones does not hear him or ignores the word.
She watches them for another moment quietly, before standing and sauntering over to the exit.
"I'll expect both of you to complete the exercise in good faith," she warns. "Take as long as you need to, as I don’t want either of you rushing through the other’s positive traits. Also, message me some time after 1700 hours. I have appointments all day until then.”
She wanders out of McCoy’s office, rather like she had never had any intention of remaining for an extended length of time. Spock is left alone with Kirk. Silence stretches between them. Kirk clears his throat and runs his hand along the back of his neck.
“So, Uhura first, right?”
“I consider Nyota Uhura a close confidant, yes,” Spock answers. He hesitates a moment before adding, “Do you require a list of crewmembers with whom I converse?”
“What? Wow, no. Don’t—don’t do that.” Kirk stands quickly and paces to the opposite end of the room. He remains facing the wall as he speaks. “I know who your friends are, Spock.”
The news comes as a surprise to Spock, as he did not believe the Captain took notice of his extracurricular activities.
He does not entirely know what to make of the statement, and as such remains silent. Kirk turns to him, somewhat sheepishly, before taking several hesitant steps towards him again.
“Not in a creepy, I-know-where-you-live, stalkerish sort of way, though,” Kirk begins, almost as if he is speaking to himself. “Just in an Oh-so-there-are-people-that-Spock-actually-tolerates kind of way.”
Spock does not necessarily understand the difference.
“But Captain,” he tries, “you do know where I live.”
“Right. And this is where the conversation ends.” Kirk abruptly spins nearly 90 degrees and rushes to the door. “I’ll see you whenever, Commander.”
His first visit, naturally, is Doctor McCoy, whom he finds sharing a meal with several off-duty nurses in the mess hall. McCoy watches his approach with his customary scowl in place. Spock refuses to be intimidated by it.
“Doctor, I require a moment of your time.”
“Whatever it is, I’m sure Miranda sent you,” McCoy responds. “And whatever she gave you as homework, it can wait ten damned minutes.”
“Of course, Doctor,” Spock answers placidly. “I will await a more opportune moment.”
He clasps his hands behind his back and assumes parade rest, .87 meters away from McCoy. Improbably, the doctor’s scowl deepens; he pushes away his empty plate and stands irritably Spock had not known one could accomplish such mundane tasks irritably, but Doctor McCoy lives his life in a permanent state of near-irritability and has no problem letting his crewmembers know it.
“Serves me right for trying to help you out,” he mumbles and walks away.
He gives no indication that Spock is to follow; nevertheless, he does so. Unexpectedly, the doctor does not lead him back to his office in medbay. Rather, when they enter the turbolift, McCoy instructs it to take them to deck twelve, the officers’ quarters.
If he were to have put any logical thought into it, Spock would not have assumed McCoy actually lived in his office. It is a foolish rumor, given that he would have undoubtedly been given his own quarters in which to rest. As such, it is illogical to be so surprised to be led into his living quarters.
“I’m off duty,” McCoy explains, “and like Hell am I going to go back into that black-hole of an office for the likes of you.”
“Doctor,” Spock begins, standing awkwardly outside the room when the door opens and McCoy enters.
“Get your hobgoblin ass in here before people see you standing out there like some kinda jilted lover,” McCoy says when he turns back and sees Spock has not followed.
Spock takes three measured steps and stops, clasps his hands behind his back, and regards the doctor while the man collapses onto his couch.
On the far side of the living area, a desk sits, large piles of old-fashioned paperwork littering its surface. The terminal's screen is facing away from them, but its blue shine indicates that McCoy did not power it down before leaving earlier for work today. The entryway to his sleeping area is closed off by a black, three-pane screen. There are holopics on nearly every available surface, some of the Captain, no doubt from when they were still studying at the Academy. Yet, overwhelmingly, they are snapshots of a young, bright-faced girl with long dark hair and shockingly green eyes.
"So, what do you want?"
To his credit, the doctor does not delay.
"Doctor Jones expressed a wish for us to speak with the others' close companions," Spock begins.
"Always did have a soft spot for creative solutions, Miranda did," McCoy grumbles, one side of his mouth quirking up. "So what exactly did you need to know?"
Spock shifts his stance slightly and looks around again to avoid the doctor's piercing gaze. Spock estimates that McCoy's quarters are roughly eleven percent smaller than his own before he speaks again.
"I wished to ascertain why you became friends with the Captain," he finally says.
"That's easy," McCoy says, putting his feet up on the small glass table in front of him. "He let me throw up on him." The statement alarms Spock, and it is not until the doctor lets out a bark of laughter that he realizes the man had not been entirely truthful. “Sweet heaven almighty, that look on your face was priceless.”
Spock tries not to frown.
“Doctor, if you cannot answer my question seriously—”
“I know, you’ll throw me out an airlock,” McCoy says. He sits up again, letting his feet fall back to the floor loudly. "Jim, he's—well, there're tons of reasons why people like him. He's friendly and honest and great when you need to drown your sorrows in whiskey but don't want to end up in the county detention facility. You know he's a smart guy. Hell, at the Academy it was a fight to get the damned fool to do anything other than study."
"You are responding to my query with generalizations, Doctor," Spock says. "My question regards you, specifically."
McCoy runs a hand through his hair in a way that reminds him suddenly of Kirk. He wonders if the doctor acquired this habit from the Captain, or if perhaps it was the other way around.
"I joined the Academy because I had nothing waiting for me back on Earth," McCoy says on a sigh, seemingly off-topic. "The divorce paperwork'd just gone through, and dammit if The Wife hadn't taken the whole damn planet in the divorce. So I'm there with my liquid courage to get me through that godawful shuttle ride, when in walks this kid who looks like he's at least had a pretty rough time of it himself, not like all those other clean-cut Academy folks littering the shuttle. There ain't a way I don't reek of alcohol and seven different types of failure, but this kid, he doesn't even blink a goddamn eyelash at it." McCoy pauses here, but something tells Spock that he is not quite finished with his story. "You know I did throw up on him? And the damned fool just laughed it off. Said you owe me a drink the second we set foot in San Fransisco. That's how I knew. That goddamn idiot’s the best friend I ever had, and I knew he’d be right from the start."
"I see," Spock finally says, unsure of what other response he should give.
“Don’t you ever tell him I said that though,” McCoy warns, sitting up and scowling at him from across the room. “He’ll never let me live it down.”
"Of course not, Doctor," Spock responds in all seriousness. For a moment he hesitates, unsure how to phrase his next request. "Doctor—"
"For God's sake, Spock, I just told you my goddamn sob story, at least call me McCoy in my own damned quarters."
"Very well. McCoy, Doctor Jones specifically requested we interview no fewer than four friends. The Captain initially stated that he knew those with whom I conversed, yet I find that I cannot say the same for myself."
McCoy frowns thoughtfully for two-point-seven seconds, rubbing his hand across the bottom of his jaw.
“Honestly, Jim doesn’t have too many close friends,” he finally says. “He’s got a lot of acquaintances, but not many people he can confide in.”
“I’d try Sulu first, though.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” Spock says, inclining his head once in thanks. He turns to leave, but the doctor’s voice stays him.
“Don’t tell him I said this either, but he’s kind of looking for you to be one of those few he can confide in,” McCoy says quickly, as if he is speaking against his better judgment.
“Unlikely,” Spock says, refusing to believe he is disappointed by the truth. “The Captain has not shown any interest in beginning a personal relationship with me.”
“Why you goddamned, thick-skulled, know-nothing genius,” McCoy mumbles, so quiet Spock is sure he is not meant to hear it. “You really don’t—” He breaks off, seemingly unable to continue. After a moment, he composes himself and speaks at a regular decibel. “Just get out of here. And think about what I said, dammit.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” Spock forces himself to say, turning away to inspect the wall on the far right side of the room. “I shall endeavor to do so.”
McCoy waves him off, and Spock turns back to the exit. It is then, of course, that the door slides open of its own volition, and Captain Kirk enters the room, not appearing to notice Spock.
“Bones, have you seen—”
He stops, both in speech and in movement when he finally catches sight of Spock. His eyes—bright in the harsh overhead lighting—sweep over Spock then flick to where McCoy is now standing, arms out as if to soothe a raging beast.
“Bones, did you know there’s a Spock in your rooms?” he asks, his tight question at odds with the loose stance of his body. “Or am I just seeing things?”
“If you would excuse me, Captain,” Spock says, unwilling to argue. “I have bridge duty in seventeen point six-five minutes.”
Spock leaves them, and the sound of the door sliding shut behind him is unreasonably dissatisfying.
Sulu appears alarmed when Spock asks him for a moment of his time the next day after his shift. He shares a horrified look with Ensign Chekov that Spock pretends not to notice. Sulu follows Spock into the turbolift, to the apparent bemusement of the entire bridge crew. The captain, thankfully, was called down to engineering twenty-three minutes previous, and so is not present to send Spock his abnormally hostile glares, as he has been doing the entire shift. Spock thinks it may have something to do with the betrayed look on his face last night, when he had caught Spock in McCoy's quarters, but Spock will not make assumptions in regards to the captain. He is—a dynamic individual, Spock will admit, and is difficult to predict.
"Sir?" Sulu prompts as the turbolift doors shut. "Is there something you needed?"
"It is unrelated to your performance on board this vessel," Spock begins, and watches in mild fascination as the Lieutenant takes a deep breath and visibly relaxes. "My query is in regards to your relationship with the captain."
"We're just friends," Sulu is quick to assure. "Nothing unbecoming going on there."
Spock raises an eyebrow, wondering if there are perhaps rumors to the contrary Sulu has heard that Spock has not.
"I believe you, Lieutenant. I only wish to know—" Spock pauses here, thinking of the most efficacious way he could word his query, "why you are such good friends with the captain."
The turbolift comes to a halt then, and Spock quickly presses the hold button to keep this conversation private. That alarmed look crosses the lieutenant's features once more, as his eyes dart from Spock, to the turbolift doors, and down to where Spock continues to press the hold button. When his eyes once more find Spock's there is determination etched into the line of his jaw. It is startlingly similar to the way Kirk looks in the midst of an argument.
"Jim's a great guy," Sulu insists, as if Spock doubted the statement. "When he counts you as a friend, you'll never have to worry about falling to your death into a rapidly destabilizing singularity. At least not alone."
“You and the captain were not friends when Vulcan was destroyed,” Spock says bluntly.
“Of course, sir,” Sulu says, looking down at the floor. “Only—well, it kind of still applies.”
There is a moment where Spock considers asking Sulu to clarify his answer, but in the end he only drops his arm and allows the turbolift doors to slide open. Still Sulu hesitates, glancing between Spock and the exit repeatedly.
“Why do you need to know, sir?”
“Merely for my own personal curiosity,” Spock answers, remembering the way Kirk had so opposed them speaking of their relationship counseling to anyone on board.
“Oh. O—kay then,” Sulu remarks, stretching out the word. He exits the turbolift, but stops just outside the threshold. “Give him a chance, Commander,” he says, turning around and facing Spock directly.
He does not have a chance to respond to Sulu’s remark, for at that moment the turbolift doors slide shut again.
After Sulu, Spock admits that he has little idea who else he may speak with. It is troubling, he thinks, that he has worked with James Kirk as his official captain for two months and nineteen days now, and yet still knows so very little of the man. They have explored four new planets and visited thirteen Federation planets on various missions, saved the world and stood by the human as his planet disappeared, and does not even know with whom he spends the majority of his off time.
He entertains the idea of asking Doctor McCoy again for a list of the captain’s comrades, but ultimately discards the idea as inefficient. It is most logical—and in the spirit of Doctor Jones’ intent, namely, to become more acquainted with one another—that Spock discover such information on his own. It is simply for this reason, and not for the insufferably smug looks Doctor McCoy sends his way when they are around each other, that Spock begins to surreptitiously observe Captain Kirk.
“Have you been stalking the Captain?” Nyota asks of him, over a quiet dinner in her quarters.
“No. I have been gathering data,” Spock answers, because even if he cannot give her the full explanation, there is a strangely pressing need to justify himself. “To better understand Captain Kirk’s—recreational habits.”
Nyota watches him for a very long time, her fork poised inches off of her plate, before speaking again.
“Be careful, okay? I know you’ve been spending a lot of time with him—”
“I have not.” Except he realizes suddenly that he has. He has spent more time with the Captain in the preceding weeks than ever before.
“Right,” Nyota responds. Her hand reaches across the small table as if to take hold of Spock’s. He closes his fist on the tabletop, and her hand retreats. “Just trust me. Be careful around him.”
It is after some observation that he begins his search for Lieutenant Gaila Im’pha. He finds her in engineering, laughing with Commander Scott in the shadow of the warp core. Scott frowns at him when he asks to speak with Im’pha. She, however, only waves away the engineer’s suspicion before following Spock to a relatively secluded area of the engineering deck.
She frowns thoughtfully when Spock asks her of Captain Kirk, picks up a spare PADD from nearby and fiddles with it restlessly.
“You know, I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about it,” she finally says. “Back at the Academy, we were in this class, Advanced Warp Core Engineering, that only had six beings in it. We clicked.”
Spock does not respond, unsure if any response that comes to mind is appropriate. He has no right to question the captain’s romantic dalliances while at Academy, not when Kirk has restrained himself from asking Spock of his relationship with Nyota (even though none exists). Still, he finds it difficult to avoid a query on their old relationship.
“Jimmy gets underestimated a lot,” she continues after a moment. “Captain Kirk, sorry. But he’s kind of hard to quantify, if you know what I mean.”
He does not. He suspects however that he might never truly understand Kirk’s friends, thinks perhaps that has something to do with why Kirk is such good friends with them in the first place. He thanks Im’pha for her time and leaves, listening to her echoing laugh as he goes.
Gary Mitchell works in administration. Spock finds him at his post on Deck C. The man laughs for twelve point seven seconds before saying, “We’re friends because it would’ve been too much trouble to stop being friends, sir.”
He is called away by his supervisor seconds later, and so Spock leaves, dissatisfied with the response. He wonders why Kirk would associate with someone like Mitchell, who does not appreciate him the way his other acquaintances appear to.
It is in this frame of mind that he inadvertently stumbles across Lieutenant Benjamin Finney. Finney was in the Laurentian system when Vulcan was destroyed, and so is one of the few Academy professors who was not promoted after Nero’s destruction.
“You either love Jim or you hate him,” Finney says once Spock has posed his question. “There’s no middle ground with him. We went through survival training on Andor together, and I was unlucky enough to need rescuing at least twice while we were there. I owe Jim my life, at least twice over. Captain Kirk’s resourceful, creative, loyal, and great company, once you get over some of his idiosyncrasies.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant,” Spock says, because Finney appears to be running late for something. “I will not keep you any longer.”
“Thank you, Commander,” Finney says, before saluting sharply and hurrying away.
Spock is not entirely sure this exercise has been useful to him at all, at least not in the way he thinks Jones may have wanted. At their next counseling session, Jones does not ask them to report their findings. Instead, she merely clasps her hands in her lap and says,
“Commander, what can you tell me about the Captain?”
“James Tiberius Kirk,” Spock begins, unsure the motive behind the question. “Captain of the United Starship Enterprise NCC-1701. Serial number—”
“Wait, you know my serial number?” Kirk interrupts.
“Captain, please, let the Commander finish,” Jones admonishes. Kirk fidgets in his seat and scowls, but ultimately remains silent. “Please, continue.”
“Serial number SC937-0176CEC. He is—” But Spock hesitates, suddenly unsure. “He is well-versed in engineering and the sciences, although he keeps such information relatively hidden from common knowledge.”
He stops there, unwilling to say more. There are other personality traits that he has discovered over the course of this mission and others the man’s friends assure Spock exist within him. However, this is all merely hearsay. Spock must await tangible evidence of these before he is comfortable verbalizing such information.
“What about you, Captain?” Jones says. “Can you tell me about the Commander?”
“Commander Spock is the Executive Officer on board this vessel,” he says. “That makes him second-in-command and resident terrorizer of the crew. He’s also head of the Science Department, which frankly kind of boggles my mind, since he works fifty hour work weeks on the bridge, but apparently Vulcans are just generally better than any other species in the galaxy because they don’t need silly things like sleep to slow them down.”
“Captain, I must protest,” Spock begins, but stops after the twin looks of mild annoyance on Jones’ and Kirk’s faces.
“Also, the Commander’s got friends who are just as scary and genius-y as he is, except they all have feelings and have started the Spock fanclub or something.”
Spock doubts that whomever Captain Kirk spoke with would ever seriously consider starting such an illogical group.
“Is that all, Captain?” Jones asks, frowning slightly at the captain.
Kirk runs a hand over the back of his head, the ever-present smirk slipping for a moment.
“Yeah,” he says. “That’s it.”
“Bridge to Captain Kirk,” a small voice says.
“Captain, may I remind you that I’ve asked you both to not bring your communicators to our counseling sessions—”
“Captain,” he responds as if it is an adequate explanation, lifting one shoulder in an almost apologetic shrug. “Can’t afford to leave my communicator behind.” He flips open his communicator and turns towards the door. “Kirk here, what’s up?”
“There’s a Captain Stone on the vid feed who wants to speak with you,” the unfamiliar voice says.
“I’ll take it in my quarters,” he says. “Give me five minutes.”
And with that, he leaves, without so much as a backward glance.
It is stardate 2259.323, and so Spock is scheduled to work the latter half of Alpha shift. There are less than five minutes in his shift when Kirk rushes in, halfway to the navigation console before Ensign Chekov yelps, “Keptin on the bridge!” Kirk pauses where he stands, turns to where Spock is standing beside the captain’s chair and shakes his head.
“Okay, first, how are you always on the bridge?”
“Is there some emergency that requires your immediate attention, Captain?” Spock asks, assuming Kirk’s inquiry was rhetorical.
“Um, no. Just—” he makes a dismissive gesture with one arm, “carry on. As you were, that is.”
The crewmembers return their attention back to their proper stations, except for Spock, who watches the Captain speak in quiet undertones with Lieutenant Sulu. Sulu nods somewhat reluctantly, and Kirk grins, clasping him roughly on the shoulder as he does so.
“Awesome,” he says aloud as the Beta shift complement begin to enter the bridge. He turns to Spock, some of the mirth fading from his features. “With me, Spock?”
Spock nods once in acquiescence and follows Kirk to one of the turbolifts. They do not speak a word to one another until they are sitting in Doctor Jones’ office, awaiting her arrival.
“You never answered my question,” Kirk says abruptly.
“Regarding my presence on the bridge?” Spock replies. At Kirk’s nod, he continues. “I work there, Captain.”
“Well, yeah obviously. But. Well, say I’ve got Beta shift. So I come up a couple hours early to check up on whoever’s taking care of my girl, and you’re the Acting Captain. Or if we both worked Alpha shift, and that night I can’t sleep and come up to the bridge, you’re still there. I mean, it seems like you’re always working. And I know you can’t be, because our resident union workers would have skinned me alive by now had that been the case.”
Admittedly, Spock’s schedule is somewhat chaotic. Every week he updates it, as his sleeping cycle clashes with the standard 24 hour work day. He is not entirely sure how he can expediently explain the matter, however.
“One Vulcan day corresponds to eighteen standard hours,” Spock finally says.
“So when it’s eighteen hundred ship’s time, your body’s telling you it’s midnight?”
“It is complicated,” Spock finally admits. “Today, for example, my morning shift starts three hours after Gamma begins.”
“Huh,” Kirk says after a moment, but does not offer another comment until after Jones enters her office from the side door.
“Hello,” she says placidly, sitting behind her desk and smiling at the two of them. Spock nods once in greeting, while the captain answers with a deliberately casual “Hey.”
“Is there anything you two wish to discuss?” she asks.
“No,” Kirk says quickly, perhaps too quickly to be entirely truthful.
“Really? How about you, Spock?”
“There is nothing I wish to discuss with the captain at this time.”
“Okay,” Jones says, and then proceeds to pull a PADD—modified to accommodate her blindness—towards herself and immerse herself in work.
The silence stretches between them.
“What was the nature of your conversation with Lieutenant Sulu today?” he asks.
“Rescheduling our fencing session for the day,” Kirk says. He frowns suddenly. “Because he’s, you know. My friend.”
He puts a strange emphasis on the statement. Spock knows Sulu and the Captain are friends. He does not understand, however, why he feels the need to restate the fact. But the captain shifts his chair away minutely, tension evident in his deep scowl, irritation disproportionate to their innocuous conversation.
Spock is very aware of the minutes that pass quietly, seemingly uselessly.
“Is there nothing you, as our mediator, would have us do?” Spock probes, turning to the doctor instead.
“Not particularly,” Jones says, shaking her head without looking up from her modified PADD.
There are a multitude of ways both he and the captain would be better suited in spending an hour of their time. Sitting in a psychologist’s office without speaking is not one of them. At any rate, Spock is at least familiar enough with Captain Kirk to know he cannot sit still, quietly no less, for an undetermined length of time.
“You can’t just steal my friends, Spock,” Jim says abruptly mere minutes later, missing any sort of context to make the statement sensible. “You just. You can’t do that.”
“I do not know to what you are referring.”
Kirk scoffs at that and crosses his arms over his chest. Doctor Jones remains resolutely silent at her desk. She has begun to study them again at least, eyes trained on them despite the fact that they are relatively useless to her.
“Don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about,” is the terse response. “Bones is my friend. You can’t have him.”
It takes him several seconds before he finally understands the captain’s ire. It is so illogical that it makes outrage curl to life at the base of his spine, unwanted and unstoppable. He does not have any significant relationship with Doctor McCoy. In fact, he has not communicated with the man directly since before their first official session with Miranda Jones. Then, the only reason they were conversing was because of Jones’ request. They were speaking of Captain Kirk. He cannot believe that Kirk would still be upset at an incident so insignificant.
The captain’s brash audacity has always made him behave illogically, and so now he actively has to resist the urge to be contrary.
“I am not sure I understand your meaning,” Spock says quietly, slowly. “Please, enlighten me.”
“It’s not that difficult, Commander,” Kirk says, voice rising with every syllable. “You. Can’t. Have. Him. You’re my First Officer. You can’t suddenly have this friendship with Bones, not when I’ve been here—”
“If you do not want me speaking with our Chief Medical Officer, Captain,” Spock interrupts, finished with the conversation at hand, “then perhaps you should order me away from medical bay.”
“Right, like that’ll work. You don’t follow orders, Spock, and you know it. You deign to obey them. You’re not meant to serve under anyone—”
“If you are implying that I am insubordinate—”
“I don’t know what you want from me, Spock,” the captain says in a rush. He makes an aborted movement with his hands, as if he wants to grab Spock by the shoulders and shake him violently. Instead he turns sharply and begins pacing the length of the room. “I thought I could handle this, working with you until your other commission opened up, but I can’t. I’ve already started your transfer paperwork for you; if you—”
At that moment, the sharp trill of a communicator goes off, and Kirk bites off the end of his sentence as Doctor Jones reaches for the device lying innocently on her desk. A strange buzzing has taken residence inside of Spock’s head, making it impossible for him to form any sort of response. He is aware, dimly, of Doctor Jones arguing sharply with whoever called her, but he is unable to discern the details of the conversation. The captain’s words, transfer paperwork ring through his mind, over and over.
Spock will not be fired from his position as First Officer. He will not allow it.
“It’s an emergency, Doctor,” a small voice says from Jones’ communicator. “It’s about John Kyle.”
For a moment the doctor’s demeanor changes. Her shoulders slump, and she looks between the captain, himself, and her communicator, clearly conflicted.
“I’ll be right over,” she finally says. When she speaks again, she is not looking at either Spock or the captain. “I’m sorry,” she starts. “I wouldn’t leave unless it was for something gravely important.”
“There is no need to apologize,” Spock manages to say around the burning anger which has begun to replace his initial disbelief. “We have clearly finished for the day.”
He does not bother to look at Kirk. Instead, he turns abruptly and walks off. At the edge of his peripheral vision, the captain stands as well, his hands clenched into fists. He hears the doctor attempt to stay them, but Spock finds he is in no mood to linger.
He does not realize until later they exit Doctor Jones’ conference room together, almost in unison. If Spock were not so angry, he would find it ironic how easily they are moving in synchronization. Neither of them speaks a word until they are two decks above the psychiatric ward. Finally, almost as one, they stop and turn to one another.
“I find myself offended that you would consider my commitment to this position in question,” Spock says into the silence.
“Spock, I’ve talked to Pike,” Kirk says, as if that has any bearing on the issue at hand. “The admiralty offered you command of the Enterprise first.”
“At the time I still believed I would be discharging myself from Starfleet to help my race.”
Kirk takes a step back, almost in retreat. There is hurt clear in his wide eyes, and for a moment, Spock is distracted by how bright they are. They remind him, illogically, of the MX240 twins they catalogued not last week, two blue supergiants forever orbiting each other, constantly in danger of collision. Not, of course, because Kirk’s eyes move in a way that resembles an orbit, but because they are unpredictable, violent, and hauntingly beautiful.
“See?” Kirk says, looking away from him. “If you hadn’t refused the post, you’d be Captain right now, not me. And I know you’re just waiting around for a commission to open up, Spock. You don’t have to pretend to be interested.”
Ah. Suddenly much of what has transpired between them is understandable.
“You are laboring under a misapprehension, Captain,” Spock says after a moment. “I do not want command. You would do well to remember I joined Enterprise intending to serve as your Executive Officer, not as Captain of this vessel.”
“That doesn’t mean you weren’t being groomed for Captaincy, Spock,” the Captain answers.
“Spock, it’s not irrelevant! If Pike—”
“Whatever designs Admiral Pike may have had regarding my future—”
“Admiral Pike saw command in your bones Spock; that’s no—”
“I am aware of my basic personality traits, Captain, and I must insist—”
“Don’t try to turn this into some kind of personal vendetta against you, Spock—”
“I believe you are the one who has turned the matter personal, Captain,” Spock says deliberately, stopping the Captain’s argument. “If you want me off this ship, sir, you need only ask, and I will more than gladly ‘deign’ to acquiesce to your request.”
The captain opens his mouth, presumably to make another argument, and closes it without saying a word. Spock finds the sight oddly satisfying.
“That’s not what I meant at all, Spock,” he finally says quietly, but Spock has no interest in knowing what the captain truly meant. He turns away and quickly finds himself in his own quarters.
Perhaps meditation would be beneficial at this juncture. However, the captain does not appear to know when a conversation is over, because no sooner has Spock lit his incense than his door chimes for entry. He has a moment where he considers ignoring the chime. However, it rings again, twice in quick succession, and so he takes a deep breath and calls out, “Enter.”
The captain shuffles in and stands in the living area awkwardly. Spock uncurls himself from the lotus position and moves into the kitchen alcove, avoiding Kirks piercing gaze. He remembers, of all things, Counselor Vrinda’s advice on the merit of honesty within a command team, and takes a deep breath.
“I find I do not want to leave this vessel,” Spock begins.
“And I don’t want you off this ship,” the captain says quietly. “So, I guess that’s a good place to start.”
Another moment passes in silence before Kirk sighs and runs a hand over his face. When he speaks again, his voice is subdued.
“Look. Let’s try this again, with me being mostly honest about what’s been bothering me. I—I really kind of wanted us to get along. And it just wouldn’t happen and wouldn’t happen, and yeah, it would frustrate me. I’d look for things to pick at because that’s what it felt like you were doing to me, just looking for examples of why I was the shittiest captain this side of the Quadrant. I thought ‘if Spock doesn’t trust me to run this ship, how am I supposed to fucking trust him?’ And it’d really piss me off when you’d be on the bridge, telling me how to do my job, without even asking me if I wanted your help or not. And, you know what? Half of the time I would have fucking welcomed your input, just not when you make it feel like I’m incompetent. The only reason I started up the paperwork for your transfer was because I thought you were hours away from asking for it yourself, and I figured I’d at least do you a favor and let you go with a damn good recommendation.”
There is a long silence after that particular declaration. Spock thinks of and discards multiple responses before he finally settles on one appropriate.
“I would have done no such thing,” he says, weighs the power of each syllable.
“Well, that’s good to know,” the captain says quietly, after a moment. “I mean, I guess.”
“I harbor no ill intentions towards you.”
“I am a scientist first, Captain,” Spock continues, now strangely compelled to be understood. “My first objective is to observe. It is true that there are times when I have not remained neutral around you, but I have never considered you an inadequate captain. Indeed, when there is no—animosity—between us, I find our working relationship to be quite satisfying.”
Empirically, Spock has noticed that the captain smiles in very distinct ways. This time, his smile is slow and small, almost shy.
“That’s probably the nicest thing I’ve ever heard come out of your mouth, Commander.”
Spock feels the first flicker of amusement in his chest at that; he nods solemnly to Kirk.
“And I also have found this conversation to be most adequate,” he says. “The next time I hear you speak of my idiosyncrasies, I will feel gratified to remind you of how—I believe the adjective was ‘amazing’—I am.”
A light blush appears on the tops of his cheekbones when the Captain laughs.
“Fair enough,” Kirk says, still smiling. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some very important captain-things to be doing.”
“Of course, sir,” Spock says. “Goodnight.”
Kirk turns and begins to walk off. At the door he stops, puts one hand on the frame and studies the floor.
“So. We’re good, right?”
The question is unsurprisingly vague. However, Spock finds he neither needs nor wants elucidation.
“Yes, Captain. We are ‘good,’ as you say.”
“Awesome,” he says, biting his lower lip around a smile. “Thanks, Spock. I’ll see you at Alpha tomorrow.”
Spock means to reply, but the captain rushes out of his quarters before Spock can respond in the affirmative. He stares at his door for twenty three point four seconds before he reenters his sleeping area and resumes meditation.
The next day on the bridge, Spock and Jim arrive on almost simultaneously from the two separate turbolifts. He watches the way Kirk pauses minutely before continuing on his way to the captain’s chair. He smiles stiffly at Spock, bright eyes darting around the bridge twice before focusing on Spock again.
“Commander,” he acknowledges.
Captain Kirk does not want Spock to leave Enterprise. With this thought in mind, Spock nods once to Kirk and sits. When they speak to one another, it is over-formal, especially for Kirk, who is often very casual with other members of the crew. However, they do not have any disagreements over the course of the shift.
Spock is willing to call this progress.
A yeoman from Engineering pages Spock four hours before Alpha shift, and as it is Commander Scott who has specifically asked for his expertise, Spock is unable to refuse. He breathes deeply for a moment, willing away any lingering effects of sleep—he only just attained one hour of restful sleep before the call—before standing and reaching for a fresh uniform. In five-point-four minutes, he is down in Engineering, where Lieutenants Kho and Im’pha greet him.
“Commander,” Kho says, saluting smartly.
Im’pha likewise salutes, but the effect is dimmed slightly by the yawn she unsuccessfully tries to stifle.
“Sorry, Commander,” she says, pulling out the stylus that keeps her hair in its place as she speaks. With several efficient flicks of her wrists, the cascade of brilliant red is back in a sloppily constructed bun. “Scotty put us in charge of the problem, and we’ve been working on the replicator’s coding since the start of Beta shift.”
“What, precisely, is the problem?” Spock asks.
“All the replicators on Deck Seven started malfunctioning,” Lieutenant Im’pha explains. She points to a container balanced precariously on the little desk space available, near the rows of computer terminals. “They can’t replicate anything more than simple protein supplements.”
“Have you located the coding error?” Spock asks.
“It’s not a coding error,” Kho answers, leading them to the nearest console and pulling up the lines of code. “It took us nearly seven hours to figure out, but as far as we can tell, the coding’s fine.”
“We think it might be a problem with the generative core matrix,” Im’pha says. She types something on the console quickly and three line graphs replace the block of code. She superimposes one onto what must be the baseline. “You see where there’s a peak in ionic production? We think it might be the cause.”
“Yeah, Gaila and I were thinking that ion buildup is jamming the electromagnetic currents, which frayed the circuitry.”
“I see,” Spock says. “Have you located the frayed circuit?”
“We were actually hoping you could help us with that, sir,” Im’pha says. When she smiles, she bites her bottom lip and casts a sideways glance at Kho, who flushes and looks away. “Scotty’s been working with us all of last shift, but he got called up to the bridge to—um…”
“He’s updating the universal translator for the upcoming diplomatic mission,” Kho supplies when Im’pha appears to flounder.
“Yes, right,” Im’pha says, beaming. “Ishtar’s right. He won’t be back for the rest of Gamma shift at least.”
Spock very pointedly ignores the fact that Nyota had specifically asked for Gamma shift rotation today. As her commanding officer, it is not his business. As her friend, however, he is curious, and makes a mental note to himself to inquire of it later.
For now, it will be a meticulous process to manually check every replicator circuit to discover the source of the malfunction. Narrowing the search to those located on Deck Seven still leaves two thousand, six hundred and forty seven separate circuits which must be individually troubleshot. Spock believes it will take sixteen-point-seven hours to thoroughly examine them. Once the faulty circuit has been found, it might take as long as two hours to safely reach it and eradicate the problem, depending on the accessibility of its location. He stops himself from sharing this information with the lieutenants, as he is beginning to understand that such details can often overwhelm certain members of the crew.
“Let us begin then,” Spock says.
He stays with Kho and Im’pha for longer than he originally anticipated. Spock would be lying if he said he had not, in fact, lost track of time. In fact, hours pass before Spock realizes that both Kho and Im’pha have at last succumbed to exhaustion and excused themselves for some much needed sleep. Likewise, Spock misses the fact that the rest of Gamma shift, all of Alpha and three point seven hours of Beta shift have passed without his knowledge. It is only Commander Scott’s arrival on the Engineering deck that pulls Spock out of his work. He leaves hastily afterwards, once he is sure Scott understands which sections of circuitry Spock has checked.
This is how Spock finds himself running late for his now weekly appointments with Doctor Jones. The irony does not appear to be lost on Kirk, as he leans against the doorframe of the counselor’s office with his arms crossed. However, it is strange that Spock can notice his defensive stance seems to be merely for show. When Kirk looks up from his study of the floor upon Spock’s arrival, he is smiling.
“I apologize, Captain,” Spock begins. “I was held up by—”
“Hey, Spock, don’t worry about it,” Kirk responds, pushing himself away from the wall with one foot. “Everyone hits the snooze every now and then.”
Spock does not employ the use of an alarm clock, and therefore has no possible way to ‘hit the snooze.’ However, he believes that Kirk does not mean the statement literally, and so does not mention it. At that moment, a yeoman motions for them to enter the counselor’s office, and so he has no time to come up with a response to Kirk’s attempt at levity.
Doctor Jones is not in her office when he and Kirk are led in. Spock remembers their last session, where the two of them hardly spoke a word to each other until the disastrous exchange minutes before their dismissal. Kirk, who must also have that counseling session in his mind, shifts in his seat, discomfort obvious in the tense line of his shoulders.
Nyota has told him on numerous occasions that he is terrible at small talk.
“I find that I am unskilled in some of the intricacies of interpersonal communication,” Spock says into the resounding silence suddenly. “The most mundane of which, small talk, seems a particularly hard concept to grasp.”
Kirk laughs at that, and something terse and tense relaxes around his sternum at the sound.
“I never quite got the point of it either, to be honest,” Kirk replies, turning slightly in his chair so his knees point in Spock’s direction. “Like, if you don’t have anything important to say, why even bother?”
Not three weeks previous, Spock would have taken offense at Kirk’s statement, believing him to be making a thinly veiled insult on Spock’s attempts at communication. Now however, Kirk does not give off an impression of hostility. On the contrary, Kirk sits up, his full attention on Spock. His eyes are bright in light of this shared admission, hands spread in open supplication. Inviting Spock’s opinion.
“A logical assumption, Captain,” Spock says. “Indeed, it is one that we share.”
Kirk grins widely and leans forward, until he rests his elbows on his knees. He interlaces his fingers and rests his chin in them.
“Wait, wait, wait, hold on,” he says redundantly and huffs out a single laugh. “Two things. First did you just compliment me?”
“I merely state facts, Captain—”
“Which brings me to bullet point number two,” Kirk says, interrupting him. Spock takes a deep breath, not as irritated as he once was at the Captain’s unfortunate habit of interrupting. “We’re in relationship therapy, Spock. Been in it for weeks now. I think you should really call me Jim.”
Spock has no chance to reply, as at that moment Doctor Jones enters from a side door. She does not offer any excuse for her tardiness. Instead, she smiles calmly at them both.
“How are you both?” she asks, sitting before them and clasping her hands in her lap.
“Great,” Kirk says, casting a sideways glance towards Spock. “Really great.”
“Wonderful,” the doctor replies, smiling warmly. She turns her milky gaze on Spock. For a moment he feels a flash of her telepathy, but it is gone quickly, no doubt due to his previous issues with Counselor Vrinda. “And you, Spock? How are you today?”
“I am functional,” Spock says. The statement is perfunctory, as he has no name for the bubbling feeling that has been rising low in his stomach since he began conversing with Kirk—Jim today.
“That is, of course, acceptable,” Jones says. The statement, for some reason, causes Jim to grin again, a quick flash of teeth that Spock may have missed if he had not been studying the Captain so intently. “What do you two have to tell me?”
He shares a look with Jim; somehow he surmises that he wants Spock to explain. Spock takes a deep breath before beginning.
“After our last session, the captain—” here he nods to Jim once in acquiescence, “Jim and I shared words. We found the conversation to be quite enlightening.”
“Yes, very productive,” Jim says, biting his lip, perhaps in an attempt to stifle his near-manic grin. “We’ve had two coinciding shifts between then and now, and it was—um—refreshing? I guess? That we managed the whole shift without arguing.”
Truthfully, that Monday’s Alpha shift had been awkward. With the sudden realization that the captain was not willfully antagonizing him, Spock had been forced to change his reactions accordingly. Once this had been achieved, however, Spock noticed a marked increase in not only their individual productivity, but in the work output provided by the entire bridge crew.
As long as he does not have to admit as much to Doctor McCoy, Spock is coming to realize that therapy has indeed proved to be fortuitous in his relationship with Jim.
“I believe we have come to an understanding, of sorts,” Spock finally decides to say.
Doctor Jones looks momentarily surprised before she smiles at them again.
“That’s really…unbelievable. Encouraging, of course, but quite sudden.”
For a moment, she purses her lips, seemingly perturbed by their progress.
“Is that a problem?” Jim asks, his smile fading into uncertainty.
“Oh, no of course not,” she says forcefully. “Facilitating an emphatic experience, or communicating in an environment that is welcoming to differing opinions, is a higher priority than any conceptual insights or principles of relationship functioning. I just didn’t expect you two to reach this level of communicative intimacy so soon.”
“Okay,” Jim says. He mouths the phrase communicative intimacy to himself before speaking aloud. “So, what does that mean for us, exactly? Within the context of these meetings?”
“Ideally, I would still like to observe you two interacting,” Jones says, seeming to regain some of her previous composure. “I’ve read of cases where once the initial conflict was resolved, previously unknown conflicts rose to the surface.”
“That is acceptable,” Spock answers. “How should we begin?”
The doctor leads them through multiple exercises, most of which Spock remembers from their first meeting with Jones. Spock is surprised, however, to note that their responses do differ from the initial meetings.
Now, when the Doctor asks Jim to describe Spock, he begins with;
“Spock is a scientist, and he’s also my First Officer.”
It is not a significant difference, but it is a difference nonetheless.
“Your progress is encouraging,” Jones says forty three point five minutes later, after they have spoken of multiple subjects without a sign of hostility from either of them. “I know it’s difficult for the two of you to get any mutual free time, with how often your schedules conflict, so I thought we could shorten our sessions to every other week for four more weeks. After that, I would require a follow up session after one standard month and then again at the six month mark to make sure you’re both adhering to your commitments.”
“What commitments?” Jim asks.
“Well, that’s what I wanted to explain right now.” She studies them both intently for a moment before continuing. “I want you to take an interest in each other’s work or out-of-work activities. Sustaining a mutually benefiting relationship takes effort, even outside of counseling. You need to orient yourselves towards the other, meaning you need to take the time and energy required to make sure your relationship is healthy and equal.”
“How would such a state be attained?” Spock asks.
“I need you both to make a commitment to continually evolve your newly budding rapport. To do this, you need to maintain mutual influence by being attentive, observant and interested in the other. You’ll both need to make an effort to share vulnerability and relational responsibility.”
“Wait, what does that mean, exactly? Relational responsibility?”
“It means that you’re both responsible for the ultimate outcome of your relationship, Captain,” Jones responds. “Both of you need to make it safe for the other to be vulnerable, meaning cultivating a nonjudgmental environment, to make it easier for you two to risk emotional engagement.”
“Right, of course,” Jim answers, in a way that suggests he does not entirely understand the Doctor’s response.
“You have to take this seriously,” Jones says, with the first hint of offense she has shown throughout their counseling sessions. “Captain, Commander, I need full assurance that you’ll both conform to my parameters.”
Spock turns to Jim and they lock eyes for a long, interminable second.
“I do not believe your request to be unreasonable,” Spock finally says without breaking eye contact.
“Yeah, I think I can do that.”
Doctor Jones dismisses them shortly afterwards, still with a small amount of her dissatisfaction present around the tight press of her lips.
Once they are both in the turbolift and it is speeding towards their destination, Jim breaks the somewhat awkward silence.
“Do you ever get the feeling that we’re living in the Twilight Zone?” Jim asks, not quite meeting Spock’s gaze. “I mean, we just made a commitment to our relationship counselor to remain fully committed to working out our differences and maintaining a relationship where we—what did she call it—‘risk emotional engagement.’ I mean, I kinda feel like we might have just gotten married without knowing it.”
If Spock were completely human, he would admit to feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the counselor’s somewhat intimate suggestion. However, being unable to adequately express such a thought, Spock opts for a slight redirection of their conversation.
“The statistical probability of the Enterprise being witness to any anomaly resembling ‘twilight’ is—” Spock stops himself before calculating the exact probability. He knows it is so small as to be negligible. The Captain does however snort and put a hand up to stay his response, which was the purpose of Spock’s statement.
“It was a vague, pre-warp, Terran pop culture reference,” he says, and it is almost an apology. “You work gamma shift in a few hours, right?”
“In approximately three hours and twenty five minutes, yes,” Spock answers, reminding himself to look up the aforementioned pop culture reference at a later time.
“Do you want to do something in the interim?” he asks hopefully. “We could go to the mess and grab something to eat?”
The offer is tempting, as Spock has not eaten since—since 17:00 yesterday, he realizes with some astonishment. However, he knows that he cannot safely resume his position on the bridge with less than four hours of sleep within a 36 hour period.
“I was planning on using the little available time I have left for sleep,” Spock admits. He finds he does not like the way Jim’s smile dims ever so slightly. “I have been working with engineering on an ionic disruption in Deck Seven’s replicators since last gamma shift, and I am not eager to return to work without adequate rest.”
“Oh, of course,” Jim says. “Very logical of you, Mr. Spock.”
“I am sorry, Captain,” Spock says, and finds that he means it. “Perhaps some other time?”
“Yeah, definitely. Maybe you can tell me a little about that replicator malfunction that Scotty still hasn’t told me about.”
“I would find such a conversation satisfying,” Spock answers, is rewarded by another flash of Jim’s brilliant white smile.
When the turbolift stops on the officer’s deck, Spock steps out sedately.
“Goodnight, Spock,” Jim says.
“Thank you, Captain. And you, as well.”
It is unfortunate that Spock never in fact reaches his quarters. Ensign Ortiz is waiting for Spock at the end of the hallway, standing at attention despite the fact that before Spock turned the corner, the corridor had been empty save for her. Unlike Kirk, Spock does not take his communicator with him to therapy, although at the moment he suspects that this decision might have proven to be an error. Ortiz salutes upon catching sight of him, and immediately explains that his presence is required in engineering again. Spock only delays enough to retrieve his communicator before he is down in engineering again.
Im’pha and Kho greet him somewhat nervously; Spock notes that Scott is also present this time, although he is deeply immersed in a readout at the moment, and does not appear to notice anyone around them. Ortiz joins them moments later, and together they await Scott in increasingly tense silence.
“There’s an ion storm heading our way,” he finally says.
“Is the acting bridge crew aware of this?” Spock asks him.
“It’s where I got the info from now, isn’t it?” Scott answers, waving his arms in the air unnecessarily. “Figure it’s about twenty minutes from here.”
“Will it affect the replicators?” Kho asks, a frown marring his face.
“Aye, no way around it,” Scott responds.
“What are our options, Scotty?” Im’pha asks, taking a hesitant step towards the man. Scott frowns.
At that moment, the turbolift doors open again and Jim rushes over to them, his blue eyes like twin shards of titanium alloy, determined and unwavering like Spock has not seen since Nero.
“Heard about the ion storm,” he says by way of explanation. “And Spock said something about ionic disruption in our replicators?”
Im’pha, Kho, Ortiz, and Scott all wince nearly simultaneously, and turn to Spock with perfectly matching exasperated looks.
“Did he?” Im’pha asks, her half-frown turning thoughtful.
“Scotty, I’ll have words with you about not reporting this to me once the crisis is averted,” Jim says, causing Scott to grimace again, “but first, I need to know what we’re planning on doing, or if we need to do anything in the first place.”
“The ionic charge up there is already becoming critically unsafe,” Koh explains. “That ion storm could electrically discharge in our mainframe, short-out our life support, even get the engines offline.”
“We could get exploded, too,” Ortiz adds, holding up a spanner at this as if to gain everyone’s attention. “Could blow off decks seven and up from the engines. Tear us straight apart. Ion energy is nasty that way.”
Scott makes a truly pained expression and shakes his head desperately.
“Don’t even think such unspeakable things, Gloria!” he says, leaning an arm against a nearby bulkhead for support.
“Yeah, I don’t exactly want to picture us exploding into oblivion because of our replicators,” Jim says tightly. “Which, while we’re on the subject, what the fuck, seriously?”
“Captain, did you know that if there was a method of harnessing ionic energy would be six times more powerful than a dilithium crystal?” Im’pha asks.
“Seriously,” she responds. “The ionic charge our replicators are giving off is positive right now, and with a small build-up like what we’re experiencing is no big deal, but mix them with a massive concentration of negative ions, like in an ionic storm, and you’ve suddenly got a really big deal.”
“Think of shocking yourself with a small discharge of static electricity,” Ortiz says after a moment. “And then multiply it by ten to the power of fourteen.”
“Can we fix it?”
“We were going to have our lass Ortiz go up and fix the circuit board through one o’ the Jeffries tubes.” He motions to Ortiz, who tosses the spanner in the air and catches it again. “But with the ion storm coming, we cannae risk it.”
“I think I can get to it in time,” Ortiz says stubbornly. She crosses her arms over her chest and pouts.
“Don’t be stupid, Gloria,” Im’pha says. “The safety protocol itself takes over ten minutes to get through properly. By the time you reach it—”
“I can do it,” she says, turning to the Captain then. “The problematic circuit board isn’t too far up; I can reach it and get out of there before the ion storm ever reaches us, if we stop wasting time arguing about it.”
Kirk watches her for a long time—five point two seconds—searching her face. Whatever he is looking for, he seems to find, as he nods once and orders tersely, “Do it.”
Ortiz turns on her heel and hurries away; Im’pha makes a frustrated noise and follows her down to the farthest Jeffries tube, calling out to her as she goes.
“Kirk to bridge,” Jim says into his communicator after the two disappear. “I need a status report on that ion storm.”
“ETA eleven minutes, Captain,” Nyota’s voice responds. “Captain, is there a reason why you’re down in engineering right now?”
“The replicators are about to explode us all, Lieutenant,” Jim answers, albeit a bit dramatically.
“Keep me updated, yeah?” With that, he flips his communicator closed. “Scotty, what can we do?”
“Not much now,” Scott answers. “It’s up to our lass now, isn’t it? See if she’s up to getting bumped around a bit.”
Jim grins at that statement.
“I think she can take it.”
“Enterprise is a lady, Captain,” Scott answers, looking scandalized. “She’s not used to getting manhandled!”
“Who is manning the science console at present, Captain?” Spock asks when Jim appears ready to continue on with this perplexing conversation.
“Don’t know; Dasher?” he answers, turning to Spock and frowning. “I’m sure whoever it is knows by now that whenever there’s a life-threatening phenomenon going on, you’ll want them to scan it for future science-ing.”
Spock does not know which part of that sentence he needs to amend first.
“Judging by Lieutenant Uhura’s curiosity earlier, I would surmise that the bridge is unaware of the severity of our situation.”
“All the more reason for whoever’s at your station to be science-ing!” Jim exclaims.
“Science is not a verb, Captain.”
“I just turned it into one, Spock.”
“Of course, sir.”
Commander Scott is speaking into his communicator, conferring with Lieutenants Im’pha and Ortiz. Jim runs a hand through the back of his hair.
“I guess I’m not really needed down here,” he says, after a moment. “You’ll tell me how my engineers saved the day, right?”
Spock is about to answer in the affirmative, when he is momentarily distracted by the overhead lighting, as it begins to flicker on and off. Beneath their feet, Enterprise begins to rumble, tiny tremors that Spock feels in the souls of his feet and nowhere else.
“We’ve entered the ion storm,” Nyota’s voice says.
For a moment it appears as if nothing detrimental will happen to the ship at all; Jim smiles brilliantly, clearly relieved. His relief is short-lived, however, as exactly four seconds later there is a sudden flare of energy in the mainframe. The lights flash impossibly bright and then they are plunged into darkness. The engines give a weak groan as auxiliary power comes online.
“Well, at least we didn’t explode,” Jim says into the silence, his face only half-bathed in the eerie red lighting. “Scotty!”
Spock is surprised to realize he did not notice when Scott had left. He comes running towards them now, with Im’pha and Ortiz several steps behind.
“I thought you said you could fix it,” Jim says when they are within earshot.
“I did,” Ortiz answers. “Why do you think we’re not all dead?”
“Most of the damage was to the outer hull,” Im’pha explains.
“Captain, we’re receiving minimum power to the bridge,” Uhura’s voice says from Jim’s communicator.
“Did we just get hit by phaser fire?” Sulu’s voice chimes in, incredulous. “Shields at eighty-four percent. Captain, Uhura’s saying our replicators are what just tried to blow a chunk out of—”
“They did,” Jim responds into his communicator. “I’ll be up in ten.”
“Auxiliary power only,” Scott says. “Phasers’ll be offline. Warp four at the most.”
“Great,” Jim answers, a muscle in his jaw clenching. “With our luck a Klingon warbird’ll show up just in time to fuck us all over. Can we fix it?”
“Aye,” Scott says, attention already buried in a nearby console. “We can have main power online in four hours.”
“If Klingons show up in three and a half hours, Scott, I’ll hold you personally responsible.”
“Aye sir,” Scott answers. Already many engineers have crowded around Scott, and when he looks up again, he begins to bark out orders to them all.
“I will remain here,” Spock says. “With my help, I estimate repair time will be sped up by fourteen point seven percent.”
Jim watches him for a long time, before finally nodding. He turns and exits engineering, already speaking into his communicator again.
“Mr. Scott,” Spock says calmly. “How may I be of help?”
Two hours and five minutes later, Spock looks up from his work. A tentative hand clasps him on the shoulder, and Jim is standing there, smiling somewhat apologetically.
“When was the last time you slept, Spock?” he asks gently.
Spock is not sure. He assumes it has been over forty hours, but he cannot be quite certain. Rather than admit this to his Captain, however, he remains silent. Jim correctly interprets Spock’s silence to be a lie of omission and shakes his head.
“Go get some rest, Commander.”
“I cannot,” Spock answers, standing with some difficulty. His knees protest movement after spending so long in a crouched position, but Spock only clasps his hands behind his back and assumes parade rest. “I must report to the bridge in twenty minutes and forty one seconds.”
Spock notices then that Jim has not removed his hand from Spock’s shoulder. In fact, he gives Spock a small shake at his proclamation.
“It is prudent for a starship commander to be well rested, Spock,” Jim says softly. “Get some sleep. I’ll have someone cover your shift for you.” He smiles, suddenly, as if an amusing thought has occurred to him. “I’m sure the Captain won’t be too upset with you.”
He wants to tell Jim that under extreme duress, Vulcans are able to function adequately for weeks without sleep.
“Don’t make me make it an order, Spock,” Jim says again.
“I will rest,” Spock finally says, ultimately deciding that engineering can continue on without his presence and that their current situation does not precisely constitute an episode of ‘extreme duress.’ “I will, however, make arrangements with Commander Taras to compensate for the hours I will not work.”
“You’re gonna drive our quartermaster crazy, you know,” Jim says. His arm drops away from Spock’s shoulder. It feels strangely bereft afterwards. “Just go.”
Spock nods once and turns to go.
“Thank you, Captain,” he says, without turning back to face him.
“Thanks are unnecessary,” Jim says, a hint of irony evident in his voice, and he wonders if the man is smiling, if his eyes are as warm as the sound of his voice.
The weeks pass in much the same manner. Spock and Jim’s visits with Doctor Jones become more infrequent as their working schedules begin aligning. Since Spock has been responsible for drafting up his own schedules for the entirety of this mission, he cannot quite call this a coincidence.
“It is not difficult for a determined individual—particularly one versed in ancient Terran ciphers—to decrypt such a message,” Spock says one afternoon apropos of nothing.
They are on the recreation deck, seated in an unobtrusive corner and indulging in a method of interpersonal bonding. They are still hesitant around each other, and when the Captain requested they spend one afternoon in each other’s company, Spock found it illogical to refuse him.
Spock has a meeting with one of his coworkers in Sciences in fifteen point seven minutes, a young Tellarite who is working closely with the security department to upgrade the ship’s firearm power. It is interesting work, and yet he finds himself reluctant to end this encounter with Kirk—Jim, as he wishes to be called.
Jim is shuffling a deck of cards. Spock watches the play of emotions flitter across his face as he concentrates on his task.
“What such message?” he asks, looking up from his hands and quirking both his eyebrows.
“The messages you have been sending me once I revealed my inexperience with decryption.”
“Oh,” Kirk says, a small upturn at the corners of his lips. “If we’re calling it Cipher-Decryption For Practical Reasons instead of Let’s Educate the Vulcan Instead of the Other Way Around For Once, then yeah, I get your point.”
“Your predilection for turning entire phrases into proper nouns is quite illogical, Captain.”
“If by ‘illogical’ you mean either ‘awesome’ or ‘vaguely horrifying,’ then yes, I agree with you, Commander.”
Here, Jim bites his lip and turns away. The sight is very becoming, Spock notes, particularly the way the wrinkles around his eyes are thrown into sharp relief, clues to the permanence of emotion on such an alien being.
“If you want something original, tedious, and full of randomly complicated rules, I’ve got something that’ll match that criteria.”
“Yeah,” Jim responds, dealing out six cards to each of them, full of his previous excitement again. “When I was a kid, my brother had a habit of going through my things. So that forced me into hiding everything and inventing my own language for notes that I didn’t want him to see. That way, if he did find my journal or something, he couldn’t use it against me.”
“When you were ‘a kid,’” Spock repeats, picking up the cards he has been given. “Approximately what age were you?”
“Eight,” he says automatically. Spock raises an eyebrow.
“If you believe such a code—one that you created to thwart the mind of a preteen—to be unbreakable, then I believe it will suffice.”
“Do I detect a hint of sarcasm, Commander?” Jim asks on a laugh. When Spock says nothing in response, he only laughs louder. “So confident,” he murmurs to himself, shaking his head. “But all right. I’ll send you a message later on tonight. Now, come on; let me teach you how to play Fizzbin.”
Ten minutes later, Spock is eighty percent certain that Jim is creating the rules to this game as he goes. Yet Spock can hear the joy in Jim’s voice, a tremor that is not quite a laugh but exudes mirth in much the same way, and Spock finds that this alone is enough to make him overlook some of the more illogical rules of the game. In fact, he finds himself reluctant to depart after just ten minutes.
However, Spock is still Chief Science Officer aboard this vessel, and he must attend to his duties. So he says goodbye to the captain and spends exactly one hour and thirty two minutes conversing with his subordinates.
When he returns to his quarters, Spock finds a message from Jim awaiting him. Spock would be lying if he did not admit to experiencing a certain amount of anticipation over this new problem. He will meditate on the phenomenon accordingly, but not before he has slaked his curiosity and opened Jim’s uniquely encrypted message.
Lately, Jim has been adding on more complex aspects to the code he devised, versus sending Spock messages encrypted in different ways. Now it more closely resembles a complex series of equations, with counterintuitive symbols representing a mathematical function. Spock must solve each equation for a designated numerical value that represents each letter.
It is a tedious process—not because the set of “equations” has changed but because Jim prefers to use different numbers and mathematical methods to reach the same result. Therefore, To Spock: may appear one day as
(5.2*3-,1*5 ; 6%2.4*3)(6+/2*1 ; 4-,3.2 ; 7.2*2.1 ; 8%2,1 ; 3+*2):
And sometime later as
(5.4 ; 3.5)(2.9*1 ; 4.4 ; 3.5 ; /9 ; 5.2*1):
Today when Spock unscrambles the message he is surprised to find that instead of Jim’s usual greeting, Spock’s Vulcan clan name is written across the top of the message (written with Standard characters, of course). In fact, the entire message is written in Vulcan. Spock had not previously been aware that Jim is fluent in Spock’s first language.
Na’etwel Worl’Qjunirr, the message begins, and he wonders if Jim knows the significance of using a Vulcan’s clan name, that within the very words lies an implication of brotherhood. For we of the clan Worl’Qjunirr is the literal translation of that opening line, which implies that Jim is either already part of Spock’s clan or would like to become so.
Jim is very smart. Even among Enterprise’s crew—which has already been nicknamed “The Genius Boat” by Starfleet—Jim’s intelligence rating is still comparatively high. Nevertheless, Vulcan has always retained a level of privacy for many of its traditions and cultural practices. It is statistically more probable that Jim used Spock’s clan name as a clue to decode the message in Vulcan.
Spock is moved by the gesture. He remembers Sybok, being young and sitting on the veranda of their home, Spock rubbing absently at the cut on his eye and Sybok sprawled against the railing.
(“They said Mother was different,” Spock had explained, his voice small and unsure after the conversation with Sarek. “They said we were different.”
“What’s the use of being similar?” Sybok said, scowling in a way that Spock had never grown accustomed to. “Everybody’s different, Spock. The only thing that holds any of us together in cultural context is our clan name.” He pushed away from the railing and dropped heavily to the step beside Spock, wrapping an arm around his shoulder. Spock squirmed, but Sybok’s stubborn strength kept him in place. “Will you listen for a moment, Brother? We are all just a conglomerate of differences, floating around in a pool of strangers, and any Vulcan who would want you to pretend at similarity is a liar. The only constant in the galaxy is this: etwel Worl’Qjunirr.”
He had made Spock repeat it, over and over until it almost began to sound logical; the only constant in the galaxy is a clan, the only constant in the galaxy is that we are clan.)
Spock blinks out of the memory and forces away the unavoidable up swell of emotion regarding Sybok. Jim’s use of Spock’s clan name at the very least shows that he has genuine interest in Spock’s heritage. He tries not to calculate the odds of Jim wanting to be considered Spock’s clan. However, etwel Worl’Qjunirr stares up at him from his PADD, we are clan hiding just behind the name.
Often Spock has mentioned to anyone who would care to ask that his surname is unpronounceable, a very human method of misdirection that he learned early on in his schooling at the academy. For humanoid vocal chords, it is indeed easy to trip over the glottal stops within Spock’s clan name. However, such a task is achievable; his mother accomplished the feat after much practice. The reason for Spock’s subtle misdirection is tangled with memories of Sybok, with acceptance and kinship.
Jim, ha, he thinks. etwel Worl’Qjunirr.
Jim, yes. We are clan.
Spock finds it curious that during meditation his relaxed mind will indeed turn back to the subject of James Kirk during light meditation sessions, and so now Spock breathes deep, lets his mind open up until it is as the valley of Keht’ennar on the outskirts of Shi’kahr. He lets his mind expand until all is flat and motionless, with not a thought to sift through the desert of his mind. He thinks briefly that he will never again see those flat planes of rust-colored bedrock, but lets that grief slowly dissipate and reminds himself to wonder about his captain.
That he can put aside his grief so easily now is due in part to his meditation, and he thinks that at last, the gaping wound Vulcan left behind in his psyche is finally beginning to heal. But solace is not the purpose of this meditation, although Spock has spent countless hours slowly coming to terms with the loss of Vulcan and its accompanying grief.
Jim Kirk is changeable. He is ephemeral or, more figuratively, fluid, like the oceans of Earth that rise and fall at predictable times throughout the course of a single day. A certain amount of changeability is in the nature of all humans, Spock thinks. Adaptation and perpetual motion were bred over millennia by extreme variations in living conditions not present on Vulcan. But there is something altogether extraordinary about James Tiberius Kirk that makes him so fascinating. Perhaps not one “thing” alone but rather an amalgamation of his unique personality traits that, added up, equal something greater than the sum of his parts.
Here among the confines of his mind, it is easy to see the logical answer. Jim Kirk is an attack of the senses. Visually, he is aesthetically pleasing. The rounded curve of his lips is lush and soft-looking, while the bright blue of his expressive eyes is alluring. When he smiles, his whole presence exudes mirth and suffuses the mood of those around him. He is gorgeous.
There is more to him than this, however. It has now been six months, fourteen days since Spock first accused Jim of cheating at Starfleet Academy, and in that time—mostly in the last two months—Spock has seen firsthand Jim’s genius. It is present on away missions gone awry, in dealing with angry Admirals, but the scope of his brilliance is most breathtaking on quiet evenings alone, where they sit across from each other and play chess for hours on end.
Jim is sensual, yes, as well as mentally stimulating, but that is not all. Jim exudes a sexual confidence that is hard to fabricate and likewise hard to ignore. Spock realizes now that he has perhaps always thought of Jim in a sexual way. It is so now, when Jim enters his quarters late during Gamma shift looking for “distraction” from his overactive mind, and it was so as far back as their diplomatic failure on Catulla. Jim had been polite and accommodating to the High Governor, yet Spock had expected the worst, had experienced what he now recognizes as the beginnings of jealousy.
Everything about Jim is extraordinary. More than that—here he must strive for precision—Jim is everything Spock would look for in a mate. He—loves him.
It is enough to pull Spock abruptly from his light meditation. He blinks open his eyes and lets out a deep breath. His inner chronometer tells him it is 0120. Spock stands and heads into the kitchen alcove and orders a Terran herbal tea from the replicator.
He thinks that maybe, he has been falling in love with Jim since the very beginning. The replicator beeps, signaling to Spock that his tea is done. Spock grabs it and moves to sit at his work desk, refreshed from his meditation session. He opens his inbox and finds a message waiting for him from Jim.
“The thing is, anybody who’s trying to intercept our transmissions would expect a message in Vulcan to be literal,” Jim says, letting his fingers linger over the soft curves of his queen while he contemplates Spock’s tri-d chess board.
Spock and Jim’s schedules are almost completely aligned by now, and so they are spending their evening together, as Counselor Jones has requested. Spock likes to believe that their relationship has grown in weeks since their last meeting with the counselor, and that now they spend time with each other simply because they enjoy the other’s company. However, being unused to making assumptions, Spock quashes that illogical thought and quirks an eyebrow at Jim’s non-sequitur.
“Assuming of course that they were able to decode the number sequences correctly to reveal the message itself?” Spock queries.
“Yeah,” is Jim’s response. He chooses then to move his rook to the fourth tier. “Check. Numbers are easy, Spock. There’s no meaning to them except the ones they’re given. Words, they can mean anything.”
Spock fights a frown from blooming on his face as he counters Jim’s move and contemplates his previous statement.
“On an espionage mission, it is crucial to keep the integrity of your purpose hidden,” Spock agrees. “To accomplish this, one must designate a specific ‘code name’ to certain high-risk objects or individuals.”
“Exactly.” Jim frowns at the board for forty-seven seconds. He then stands and crosses to Spock’s kitchen area, a ploy he frequently uses when he needs more time to ruminate on his next move and is unwilling to let Spock know. “I’m gonna get some coffee; do you want anything?”
“Caffeine at this hour will hamper your ability to sleep tonight,” Spock says instead of answering Jim’s question.
He knows that no matter Spock’s response, Jim will unfailingly bring him a cup of replicated tea, a brew that Jim manually programs into the replicator that Spock has been unable to successfully duplicate. As expected, Jim sets a cup down on the table beside Spock with a quiet chink of ceramic on metal, and shakes his head as he sits opposite Spock, a steaming cup in his hands.
“Right, like it’s coffee that keeps me up at night,” he says quietly, almost to himself.
“It is your move, Jim,” Spock gently reminds him, as Jim seems content to sip his coffee leisurely.
“Yeah, I know.” He sets his cup down and moves his only remaining knight down to the bottom tier. “Okay. So let’s say we have one of those ‘high-risk’ situations you were talking about earlier. And we need to talk about it, but we haven’t had sufficient time to designate a code name to whatever it is we’re doing.”
“Do you know of a situation where such an occurrence has come to fruition?” Spock inquires, moving a pawn.
“Not the point, Spock,” Jim answers. “Let’s just say it happens. Or that there was a possibility of someone leaking info from our ship to a theoretical enemy.”
Jim bites his lip for a moment as he studies the board. Spock finds the gesture to be illogically fascinating.
“What would be our plan of action should such an incident come to pass?”
“Sometimes people say one thing and mean another,” Jim responds. He moves his rook up from the second tier to the first and takes Spock’s knight. “Really inane things have way more meaning that way, and you have to really pay attention if you want to figure out what someone’s talking about.”
He takes another drink from his cup and watches Spock over the rim, waiting for his response. Spock looks away from those bright blue eyes, their gaze so intense they almost burn.
“Yes,” Spock says, still inspecting the teacup by his side. “Is this what you propose?” Jim smiles brilliantly around his cup and nods. “In that case, I believe the suggestion to be not without some merit.”
“You and your double negatives,” Jim says, but his voice is soft and warm, almost fond as he says this. “You know they’re grammatically in bad taste, right?”
“Not as much, I find, as the illogical proclivity towards contractions.”
Jim laughs at that, nearly spills his remaining coffee from the force of it. After a moment, he regains his composure enough to speak again.
“So I’m gonna try this out, and when you find out the message is about roses or something, don’t freak out and send me to medbay, okay?”
“Of course, Captain,” Spock says, and moves his queen. “Checkmate.”
The message Jim sends him later that night, after Jim excuses himself on the pretext of sleep, does not contain any mention of roses. It does however, have a rather long treatise on the nature of Haurok, an avian species native to Vulcan-that-was that had much the same use as a chicken. Spock spends fourteen point fifty two nonconsecutive hours pouring over the message before he realizes that Jim was in fact referring to Doctor McCoy. He rereads the final phrase, which once decoded and translated says something along the lines of
The Haurok trains its young well, and their beaks are sharp.
Spock imagines the trip to medical that had no doubt spurred the comment, the disgruntled look on Jim’s face when he realized the nurses would dare not disobey the CMO’s orders over even Jim’s cajoling, and Spock finds he must cover his mouth with the back of his hand to hide a small, insuppressible smile.
They are in orbit around Ceti Gamma II, in a relatively uncharted area of space. Ensign Dasher, who had been manning the science console Gamma shift, noticed two unmistakable satellites orbiting the star. Commander Scott, as the commanding officer for Gamma shift, altered their course accordingly, and early Alpha shift Kirk excitedly begins putting together an away team to study the planet up close.
“Sulu, with me,” Kirk says after he sends messages to Lieutenant Laura from sciences and Ensign Euler from security. Lieutenant Giotto is presumably on his way to the transporter room as well. “Spock, take care of the ship while we’re out.”
Spock stands from his station and ignores the small twinge of disappointment that he will not be part of the away mission. He considers asking Jim to reconsider, but recalls their last meeting with Doctor Jones. He had explained how there are times when he is still assuaged by doubt over his ability to captain, and Spock knows now that his suggestions have often been misconstrued as veiled insults on Jim’s command decisions.
“Of course, Captain,” Spock decides, and is rewarded with a relieved smile from Jim.
With Jim and Lieutenant Sulu on the away mission, the bridge is very silent. Ensign Chekov is immersed in his work, presumably studying the surrounding space for anomalies. Nyota is monitoring the away team’s frequencies, as has become her habit. Spock’s replacement, a young ensign from the science department, has only just reached the bridge; zhe talks quietly with the ensign covering the helm.
There is no logical reason to feel apprehension; Spock has learned that Jim is more than capable of self-reliance. At any rate, it is a relatively safe mission, and preliminary readings suggest that there is no sapient life on the planet. Still, Spock sits very still in the Captain’s chair, intently watching the way Ceti Gamma creates a halo of light around the surface of the planet.
“Kirk to bridge.”
“Spock here,” he responds, perhaps too urgently than he would have had he truly felt no apprehension.
“Spock.” Far from sounding anxious or panicked, Jim’s voice is full of quiet mirth. “Spock, is Uhura around? Can you get her to link the viewscreen with Sulu’s tricorder? He’s added a vid-recorder. You guys’ve got to see this place.”
“On it, sir,” Uhura says from her station, crossing to an area of her console just out of reach from her seat. Within moments, the planet in orbit is replaced by a view of the landscape. “Got it. Streaming, Captain.”
There is a quiet intake of breath from the science console at the sight.
“Oh wow,” the yeoman says from the helm.
The away team seems to have beamed directly into a large mineral valley. There is no plant-life in their field of vision; instead, a seemingly endless plain of glittering black rock unfolds before the away team, some portions so lustrous they look for a moment to be carved of black glass. To their right, perhaps forty-five meters away, curves the shoreline for a large body of liquid, shining a grayish blue in the afternoon light.
“Is zat planet entirely quartz?” Chekov asks, looking up from his readings.
“Volcanic silica glass,” Sulu says from the planet, almost as if he had heard Chekov’s question. The viewscreen goes dark for a second, and when the viewfeed returns, they find Sulu has overlaid his initial scans over the image.
“Obsidian?” Uhura asks. “How can a planet be covered with that much volcanic rock?”
Pale, semi-transparent graphs and percentiles hover over the away team as Sulu crosses to where Jim remains standing, looking out over the valley.
“Do you see this, Commander?” Kirk asks into his communicator, his voice lagging seconds from the image they see. “It’s amazing!”
“I see it, Captain,” Spock responds, letting his eyes travel across the formations of dark igneous rock and back to Jim.
“Commander, I’m detecting a large, unidentified mass on our sensors,” Yeoman Uzaveh says from the science console.
“Onscreen.” The last image Spock sees is of Sulu undoubtedly turning away from the Captain, to where a small, dense patch of dark green vegetation looms in the distance before the screen switches to the orbital view again. The mass Uzaveh detected is still thousands of kilometers away; it appears only as a speck just above Ceti Gamma II. “Magnify.”
At twenty times magnification, the object is revealed to be a large, oblong-shaped asteroid. Its ghostly shape inches towards them as they watch, no doubt hurtling through space at tens of thousands of kilometers per hour.
“Map its trajectory, Ensign Chekov,” Spock says sharply, refusing to believe that an asteroid of all occurrences should spoil an uneventful mission. “Bridge to Captain,” he adds, pressing the comm link button on the Captain’s chair with perhaps more force than strictly necessary.
“Yeah, Spock?” Jim’s voice is full of mirth, so unlike the strained cadence he’d used less than four days previous, dealing with the aftermath of the ion storm himself once he’d ordered Spock to get some rest.
“Captain, it would be expedient if you gathered the away team for possible beam-up.”
There is a pause on the line before he answers.
“What’s wrong, Spock?”
“Possibly nothing, sir,” Spock assuages, knowing that Jim is no doubt imagining Klingon warbirds and other illogical events. “Only, stand by to recall the away team.”
“Keep me posted,” is Jim’s brusque reply before the line is terminated.
“Commander,” Chekov prompts, spinning in his seat to stare at him with shocked, round eyes. “By my calculations, it will hit ze planet with a glancing blow.”
Spock does not need to be told that an object the asteroid’s mass, at even a glancing blow, will cause massive devastation to the planetary surface. It is doubtful if any life will survive the crash and its aftereffects.
“In how long?”
“Four hours, perhaps less.”
At least none of the crew is in any immediate danger, Spock reasons.
“Kirk to Spock,” Spock’s personal communicator says. “Are we gonna get blown up anytime in the immediate future?”
“Negative, sir. However, a situation has developed that requires your input.”
“There’s always something,” Jim says before ending the communication.
“Chekov, with me,” Spock calls, already heading towards the turbolift. “Lieutenant Uhura, you have the bridge.”
By the time they reach the turbolift, Euler and Laura have already beamed up, along with several rock, water, and plant samples for testing. Lieutenant Laura also brings up a small, reptilian-looking animal under the pretense of archival research and observation. Jim, Sulu, and Giotto rematerialize on the platform as Laura makes for the science labs to catalogue their findings.
“All right, Mr. Spock,” Jim says as he steps down from the platform. “Tell me the problem.”
Spock explains the situation quickly as they ride the turbolift to the bridge. Sulu and Chekov follow, half a step behind them when the Captain bursts onto the bridge.
“How far is it?” he asks, watching the viewscreen for several long seconds. The asteroid fills the viewscreen now, tumbling over itself in empty space.
“Approximately three hours, forty-eight minutes, sir,” Uzaveh says from the science console, moving away from the station as Spock approaches.
Jim sits, without taking his eyes off the asteroid.
“Uhura, call an emergency tactical meeting in my conference room. Fifteen minutes.”
“Spock, with me,” Jim says, rising abruptly from his chair and crossing to the ready room without another word.
Inside, Jim is pacing quickly, his hands behind his back. He does not appear to notice Spock’s presence. Suddenly, he stops before his desk, his back to Spock.
“There’s civilized life on that planet,” he says quietly, turning to Spock and revealing a large arrowhead shining in the palm of his hand. It is black, and when Jim delicately grabs it with his other hand to hold up into the light, Spock can see a myriad of colors swirling inside. Obsidian then, he thinks as Jim places the object on the surface of his desk. “Or something resembling a hunter-gatherer society, anyway. We didn’t see any of them, but we found a couple of these in the area.”
“Does that change how we approach this situation?” he asks.
Spock clasps his hands behind his back and approaches the desk. The arrowhead is almost paper-thin, and its edges gleam with deadly silence in the overhead lighting. It is not yet fossilized, and neither has it yet lost any of its gleam from regular use. He can extrapolate that this item was carved very recently.
“With sapient life on that planet, the Prime Directive is in effect,” Spock finally decides. “However, I do not anticipate this revelation to have any bearing on how we will handle this situation.”
Unless the Captain had expected an evacuation of the planet, which would have been inadvisable. Jim however, just nods once, tightly, the tense line of his shoulders refusing to relax.
“Spock,” he starts, looking to him, then away again. He picks the arrowhead up again and carefully turns it over in his palms. “I need you to—I need to know you’re with me in this.”
“I am,” Spock says, lilts the phrase almost like a question.
“I mean, later, at our makeshift conference. Yeah, you’re allowed to disagree with me obviously, I mean, it’s kind of your job And I probably won’t have any ideas anyway which is kind of the point of a conference, I would think—”
“Captain,” Spock prompts, watching the way Jim resumes his pacing.
“Right,” he responds. “My point is that you and I, we’re doing good. Better than good. Great at this communicating thing. But it’s—hard to remember that when the entire bridge crew is watching us like they’re afraid we’re about to shoot each other with phasers set to disintegrate. So. I mean, you can disagree with my decision, if you feel like it’s the worst thing ever. That’s your right. Just. Can you lodge your complaints with me, alone? Afterwards?”
Spock doubts that the entire bridge crew experiences this fear. However, Spock understands Jim’s uncertainty in this case, and so he does not express his doubt. Instead, he takes two measured steps, designed to cease Jim’s nervous pacing.
“Captain,” Spock says again, then amends himself. “Jim. Whatever your decision, I am with you.”
It is rather fascinating how that simple statement is enough to drain the tension from Jim’s body. He smiles, slow and obviously relieved, and Spock feels his breath catch inexplicably in his lungs.
“Okay,” Jim breathes, runs a hand through his hair. The beginnings of a flush spring to life along the tops of Jim’s cheekbones, a sight that momentarily requires all of Spock’s attention. “Okay,” he says again, this time louder. “Let’s go then.”
“Can’t we just blow it up?” Giotto says later, after they have all gathered in the conference room.
“We’d have to get directly in front of it to make sure none of the blown-up bits hit the planet,” Lieutenant Marleau says from across the table. “The risk of serious damage to us is unacceptable.”
She and Sulu are Joint-Chiefs of Tactical, while Giotto is Head of Security. Also present at this conference are Ensign Chekov, Doctor McCoy, and Lieutenant Commander Madeline in Commander Scott’s stead—who is Ariolo and therefore has no surname.
“What about the tractor beam?” Madeline asks in the ensuing silence.
“We would need to move at exactly same speed as ze asteroid to stop it,” Chekov responds. “Ewen then, we would only slow it down. It would not change course of asteroid.”
“A slow asteroid is better than one hurtling at 3000 kilometers per second,” Madeline argues. “We could probably slow it down enough for us to get in front of it safely. Maybe then we could blow it up.”
“The ship would still be in danger,” Sulu says. “Anytime you break apart something that big, its remaining bits can go anywhere.”
Throughout this conversation, Jim has been pacing around the length of the room, clearly agitated.
“What do you think, Spock?” he says suddenly, stopping at the farthest viewport and staring out into space. Spock wonders for a moment if he is perhaps searching the darkness for any hint of the object of their discussion.
“It is not necessarily within our purview to prevent this collision,” Spock says, not because he agrees with the statement but because it must be said.
Jim spins around to face him at that, looks as if he is about to speak when someone at the conference table does so.
“Now wait just a damn minute.” It is, expectedly, Doctor McCoy who is the first to respond to Spock’s statement, although the disbelief on Jim’s face is more worrying to Spock than the outrage McCoy is exposing. “You can’t seriously be considering not doing anything?”
Spock raises an eyebrow. He believes the colloquialism for his actions now is “playing Devil’s Advocate.”
“The strictest interpretation of the Prime Directive implies total noninterference. This includes allowing nature to run its course.”
“Why you heartless, green-blooded—”
“Bones,” Jim says firmly.
He begins to cross to where Spock is seated, and it is then that he realizes Jim was correct in his earlier assessment of the crew. The tension rises in the room with every step Jim takes, and Chekov, Sulu, Marleau, Giotto, and Madeline all avert their gazes when Jim stops point nine-seven meters away.
“Starfleet is a humanitarian, peace-keeping armada,” Jim says, his expression unreadable. “As such it’s our duty to provide aid to sapient life, whether preemptively or otherwise.”
After three point seven seconds, Spock inclines his head.
“Assuming that you do not mean to reveal this ship or its crew to the inhabitants of Ceti Gamma II, I will accept your logic,” he states and is rewarded by the incredulously pleased look that crosses Jim’s face. “And, provided that our mission report contains such verbiage, I will have no qualms with proceeding further.”
There is a somewhat uncertain silence after Spock’s proclamation. However, Marleau does finally clear her throat and begins to speak.
“If we are able to slice through the asteroid without disintegrating it, there would be a high probability of the two pieces missing the planet entirely.”
“A concentrated phaser blast of such duration has a ninety-seven point nine percent probability of burning out our energy banks,” Spock adds.
“So we’d only have one shot at it,” Jim says. “And if that doesn’t work?”
“We would have to get directly in front of asteroid for plan to work,” Chekov says.
The implication is clear: if they do not succeed in bisecting the asteroid, they would be left in its collision course with few resources to move them out of the way. They could very well be destroyed in the attempt.
“Do it,” Jim says. “Chekov, Sulu, get back on the bridge and plot an intercept course with the asteroid. I want to get to it before it’s visible to anyone on Ceti Gamma II.”
“Madeline, get down to engineering. I want our tractor beam ready by the time we’re ready to blow it up.”
Madeline nods and exits along with Sulu and Chekov. The others seem to take that as a cue to excuse themselves as well, as soon, the conference room is empty save for Jim, himself, and Doctor McCoy. It is very obvious that Doctor McCoy is anxious to create a verbal conflict of sorts, but Jim merely makes a jerky motion with one of his hands to stay the doctor’s altercation.
“Later, Bones.” He turns to Spock then; they lock eyes for an interminable moment. “ Etwel Worl’Qjunirr,” he says. “Will it work?”
He has not heard Jim pronounce Spock’s clan name like it is his right; the effect is immediate and almost overwhelming. Indeed, he is stunned into silence for two point seven seconds. It is however, a small enough span of time that neither human would notice. Therefore, Spock merely inclines his head once he regains his composure.
“There is a significant chance of risk to our ship and crew,” he begins, “however the probability of success does outweigh the probability of failure.”
Finally, Jim smiles again.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” he says, turns on his heel and bounds out of the room.
“What did he call you just now?” Doctor McCoy asks once Jim has exited. “Because it sounded a hell of a lot like an endearment to me.”
“I have no comment on the matter,” Spock says, and follows Jim onto the bridge before he can see the look that crosses the Doctor’s face.
On the bridge, everyone is silent as the necessary calculations are put into effect. Spock lets his gaze flicker between his science station and Jim before crossing and standing at Jim’s side.
The asteroid fills up the viewscreen, dark and ominous as they race towards it.
“In position, sir,” Sulu says.
“Kirk to Engineering. Are our phaser banks ready?”
“Aye sir,” Madeline’s voice says from Jim’s chair. “We’re good to go down here.”
“Fire on my command,” he informs tactical. “Fire.”
On the viewscreen, the red pulsating beams of continuous phaser fire are nearly blinding. A Terran colloquialism springs to mind as Spock watches a deep crack form along the center of the asteriod: it appears to be moving in slow-motion. It is strange, since he knows splitting an asteroid with a diameter this size would in fact take a large amount of time. Still, the phrase sticks, and it echoes in Spock's mind with Jim's voice.
"Engines exceeding the max for safe temperature, Captain," Madeline's disembodied voice says.
"Keep at it, Lieutenant," Jim says, and then almost to himself, "She'll hold."
"Asteriod is breaking apart, Keptin."
"Awesome, Chekov, thanks."
"Captain, engines overheating—"
Several things happen at once before Lieutenant Madeline finishes her statement. The Enterprise shudders violently as its engines start to fail. The lights flicker ominously and they are plunged into darkness for several seconds until auxiliary power starts up, and the asteroid breaks apart without a sound on the viewscreen.
For a moment, it is completely quiet on the bridge. Then--
"Well, shit," Jim says. It earns a weak chuckle from several members of the crew. "Report."
It is as if the bridge had only been waiting for Jim's word. Almost at once the crew hastens to obey the order.
"Emergency communications only, sir. Informing engineering to use the emergency internal channel--"
"Tactical unresponsive, Captain."
"Running on auxiliary power only—"
"I can get us moving in an hour, Captain, maybe half if someone gets Scotty down here--"
"Uhura, page Scotty, I need this ship moving again," Jim says when there is a brief pause around him. "Spock, ETA on that asteroid's coordinates, and will we make it through the gap?"
Spock crosses to his station quickly and finds the necessary information.
"Estimated time of arrival is two minutes, fourteen seconds," Spock answers. "In that space of time the two separate halves of the asteroid will have separated an estimated point zero zero zero seven parsecs. It is enough distance for Enterprise to pass through unscathed."
"Chekov, map the trajectory of each of those asteroid bits," Jim says after a quick nod to Spock.
"Scott here, Captain," Commander Scott says, sounding indignant. "I leave the lass to sleep and you wreck her engines?"
"Fix it, Scotty," Jim answers, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips. "Ask Madeline to fill you in on the details."
"Aye sir. We'll have her moving in thirty minutes."
"Awesome. Keep me updated."
The line is cut momentarily, but then Scott's voice fills the bridge again.
"No 'that's not good enough,' Captain?" he asks. "You sure you're feeling all right?"
Jim laughs at that. He looks down at his armrest and glances quickly towards Spock before answering.
"Yeah," he says. "Just get us moving."
"Keptin," Chekov says then. "I have the trajectories mapped. One piece has a radial velocity that has almost stopped. The other, its path has high probability of hitting ze planet still."
"Fuck. How bad?"
"It will enter the planet's atmosphere," Chekov responds, swiveling in his seat so he is facing Jim. "If lucky, it will explode atmospherically before it hits ze surface."
"That's what we're hoping for?" Jim asks, levering himself out of his chair. Spock knows what he is thinking.
The asteroid, even broken in half, is still large enough to cause devastation to life on Ceti Gamma II. If it impacts the surface, it is unlikely that any life will survive at all. However, exploding above the surface would not yield a better save-to-loss ratio either.
"Is there anything else we can try?" Marleau asks from tactical.
"We're immobile until engineering powers up the main power," Sulu answers, watching Jim pace the length of the bridge.
"Best case scenario, we're moving at full impulse in twenty minutes," Jim says. "If Scotty works some magic, we may have warp two within the hour. But even then, it'd still take us--"
"Three days, twelve hours, fifty-two minutes traveling at full impulse," Spock supplies when Jim looks his way. "At warp two it will take twenty one hours to reach Ceti Gamma II."
"Too late to beat the asteroid there," Sulu says after a quiet moment.
His voice is hushed, as if realizing the full scope of the problem. Jim too appears affected; he stops mid-stride and looks out into space, eyes darting from distant star-system to distant star-system.
“I refuse to believe we’ve exhausted all our resources,” Jim says quietly. “I need more options. Spock?”
Spock sweeps his gaze around the bridge once, taking in every pair of eyes trained on them. He straightens his spine and stands, clasping his hands behind his back.
“There are none available to us, Captain,” Spock says.
They cannot move faster than a slow crawl through space at this time, and because they are running on auxiliary power, the tractor beam is currently non-operative. The high-intensity phaser blast blew their phaser banks. They cannot fire a photon torpedo on auxiliary power, and by the time they have enough power to do so, the asteroid will be too close to Ceti Gamma II to risk firing.
“I was afraid you’d say that,” Jim says, his voice calmer than what Spock would have expected. He moves to one of the wall communicators and switches it to the emergency internal channel. "Bridge to Engineering. Tell me you've got good news."
Spock turns his gaze to the viewscreen, and for a moment he is positive that he sees Vulcan collapsing in on itself again.
"Can't sir," is Scott’s response. Spock blinks and forces the image from his mind. "Unless you want me lying to you. The engines are almost fried, aren't they? Don't know who put together the lass' defensive coding, but you can bet your arse it'll be fixed before you can say 'starbase' after this. Whose bright idea was it to wire the phaser banks directly into the mainframe, then? Any first year cadet would tell you it compromises the lasting power of the engines!"
"Give me a time, Scotty," Jim says, impatience finally lacing his voice.
"Still a way to go, sir," Scott's voice says. "Just got the impulse engines online, but if you're looking to go faster than a merry stroll it'll be another couple hours, at least."
"Find a way, Scotty."
"Always do, sir."
Jim remains standing by the wall for five seconds after that, before visibly straightening again and facing the crew. At that moment, Spock receives a message from the science deck requesting his help on unrelated issues. It strikes Spock suddenly that over forty percent of their crew would not know how close they all just came to destruction. Likewise, approximately eighty one percent will never know that a planet with an unknown population is about to experience a mass extinction despite their best efforts.
It is unsettling, to realize that so many lives are about to be lost and there is little they can do to prevent it. Unsettling also, that so much of their crew will never know nor care to find out.
"Take the bridge, Spock,” Jim says suddenly. “I’m going to fill out some paperwork.”
Spock almost misses the statement; he blinks and looks over to where Jim disappears behind the sliding doors to his ready room. He cannot quite focus at the moment. He keeps thinking of the asteroid, how much it must have slowed down by now and the way they cannot hope to intercept it. It will be hours before the asteroid hits Ceti Gamma II, and it feels then as if he will spend every minute of them replaying the incident over in his mind, looking for anything they could have done differently.
Jim does not emerge from his ready room until after the shift ends. Spock spends the time sitting almost motionless in the Captain’s chair while every illogical thought tells him that Jim requires his support more than the bridge crew. He considers waiting for Jim to exit into the bridge, but in the four hours left in alpha shift he has received two more messages from Sciences requesting his presence. At any rate, Spock doubts he would be very good company at the moment.
He heads down to deck seven, all the while trying to keep today's mission out of his head. However, upon reaching the Science deck, the first crewmember to approach him is Lieutenant Gabrielle Laura, one of the scientists who set foot on Ceti Gamma II. She is Denebian, and when she frowns, she emits a low frequency hum to show her distress. She is doing so now, even as a strange four-legged animal trails after her happily.
"I heard we broke orbit around Ceti Gamma II," she says. "Is there a reason why? Does it have anything to do with our power shorting out earlier?"
"Yes," Spock answers, clasping his hands behind his back (because it is too much effort to keep them from trembling slightly at his sides). "We discovered an asteroid with a trajectory which would effectively annihilate the planet entirely which we were forced to confront."
"Oh," the lieutenant says. "Is it okay? I need to get this little guy home."
Here, she indicates to the animal at her heels, and Spock remembers then that Laura had indeed brought an animal on board for observation. It is perhaps no larger than a large Terran cat, with large hexagonal scales covering its body. It has long yellow eyes that blink sideways when it looks up at Spock. It is almost completely black, with only small whorls of glittering red spotting its body. Spock thinks of the terrain of Ceti Gamma II and infers that this creature would have been nearly invisible even in broad daylight. In several hours it may be the only surviving member of its species.
He wonders if this creature had a family it might have returned to, if it lives in groups or wanders its native land as a solitary animal.
"‘Okay’ has variable definitions, Lieutenant," Spock says.
He wants to tell her suddenly that no, it is not 'all right,' but such a statement is vague and too emotional, and so he merely explains to her the details necessary for her to understand. The humming returns then, at a higher frequency, a trait which indicates severe distress to Denebians; she looks down at the animal and gently picks it up.
"Sir, with your permission, I'd like to keep her then."
"It is not within my purview to allow you to keep pets," Spock says slowly. "However, I will file a request for you with the head of Health and Services, and carefully explain the circumstances. I do not foresee any complications arising should you wish to keep this animal."
"Thank you, sir," she says, wiping discreetly at the corner of her eye. "I really appreciate it."
"Thanks are unnecessary," Spock says by rote. "Is there something else which required my presence?"
"Yes," she answers, shaking her head and letting the low hum slowly dissipate. "Um, Ensign Dasher's project on human-like androids crashed during the short, and none of us have been able to recover it. We were hoping you could help."
He spends far longer than he had originally anticipated helping Dasher locate much of his original data, and so it is late in Gamma shift when Spock is finally at liberty to look for Jim. Taking his mind off of a Ceti Gamma II is helpful, but cannot last long. Eventually, even the tedium of combing through lines of code for old data no longer distracts him.
Spock is fatigued, yes, but he has a suspicion that Jim himself will be even more so, and that he is not asleep either. Sure enough, when Spock chimes for entry into Jim's quarters, there is only a minimal pause before the doors slide open.
Jim’s quarters are dimly lit, and when he steps in he hears Jim’s soft footsteps before he appears at the doorway to his sleeping area. He is in a faded black shirt and a pair of black pants that are slung low on his hips. His eyes look almost turquoise in the dim light, and overly-bright. He looks much younger than twenty-six, lost, and very beautiful.
“Hey,” he says softly, running a hand along one side of his face. “Should have known you’d stop by.”
“I regret I could not come earlier,” Spock says, letting his hands fall to his sides. “I was delayed in Sciences. Did I wake you?”
“No,” Jim answers, closing his eyes for a moment and running his fingertips roughly along the line of his jaw. There is dark stubble growing there, Spock notices, and is distracted for a minute, imagining his own fingers tracing that same path along Jim’s jaw. “I couldn’t sleep.”
"Jim, I wished to speak with you regarding today's mission."
"You mean today's failure?" Jim retorts, with enough bitterness in his voice that Spock takes a tentative step towards him. Jim's eyes snap up to him, dart away quickly. "We broke orbit four hours ago. I let Pike know what happened."
"We exhausted all our resources," Spock says firmly. "Jim, there was nothing else to be done."
"That's what Pike said," Jim responds. "He kept saying sometimes a gamble pays off, and sometimes it doesn't. The important thing is that you try." He pauses here, turns away and crosses back to his bed, where he sits heavily on the edge. "I just. I kept thinking about Vulcan. How we could have done things differently and all those life forms wouldn't have died."
"Kadiidth, Jim," Spock says, knowing that Jim will understand him. He hovers in the doorway to Jim's sleeping area for a moment before making a decision. He steps inside. "You were not the only one whose thoughts strayed to Vulcan today on the bridge." Jim looks up with just his eyes, makes it so very tempting to reach out and cradle Jim's face in his palms. "We were not at fault today."
He thinks that maybe if he can force Jim to believe it, then perhaps he too will find it easier to confront the reality of this situation.
"I made us watch," Jim says quietly. He looks back down at the floor. Spock kneels before him, resists the urge to place his hands on either side of Jim's legs. "Until the asteroid collided with Ceti Gamma II. We all thought for a second that it would burn up in the atmosphere, but no luck. Chekov said that there's a high chance fifty percent of the planet's population might survive after the dust and poisons dissipate from the air. Fifty percent, Spock."
"Then it will have a better survival rate than Vulcan," Spock says, and surprisingly, it is said without jealousy. Finally, he gives in to the urge and haltingly places his hand along Jim’s cheek, his index finger millimeters away from the psi points along his temple. A faint spark of psychic activity sparks along Spock's skin there, and he realizes suddenly that this is the first time he has ever touched Jim, skin to skin, since the moment he nearly choked the man on the bridge.
"Jim," he says lightly, watching the way the other's jaw clenches as he looks up. "Do you remember Lieutenant Laura bringing a reptilian-like animal from the planet's surface?" When Jim nods slowly, Spock continues. "It is still aboard, and she has every intention of keeping it. Its name is Annabeth."
Jim blinks thrice in rapid succession before a brilliant smile spreads over his face. He lets out a breath of a laugh and leans over the last point three five meters separating them until they are so close their breath commingles between them.
"Spock," he says quietly, and it sounds as if the noise has been ripped out of him almost against his will. "I just. I need—"
And so Spock closes the final hairsbreadth gap between them and kisses him. Jim makes a small, keening noise in the back of his throat and slides off the bed, until he is kneeling beside Spock, his hands slowly dragging up Spock’s arms. Jim tilts his head slightly, drags his tongue wetly across the crevice of Spock’s lips. He opens his mouth tentatively, and then Jim is there again, suddenly all around him, the depth of his feeling crashing over Spock as Jim inadvertently grazes one of the hidden psi points along the back of Spock’s scalp.
Spock inhales sharply, curls his tongue around Jim’s, wanting, needing to feel him. Jim, he wants to whisper, but cannot pause long enough to utter it. His free hand wanders along Jim’s thigh, slips beneath his shirt and soaks in Jim’s happiness/need/lust as it drags hotly against skin. Jim arches into the touch, drops his head back slightly and from there it is so easy for Spock to reposition the fingers of his right hand, until with a flash of heat he feels Jim’s mind close to his before even initiating the meld.
“Let me,” Spock finally whispers into the skin of Jim’s throat, wrapping his arm around Jim’s waist to keep him close.
“Yes, yes, please, Spock,” Jim says, almost a chant. “Need you so bad, for so long, come on, Spock—”
So he does. It is easy; their minds are so compatible that Spock only has to beckon Jim’s mind to him before they are one. They groan simultaneously, somehow end up on the bed with Jim stretched out underneath Spock, their clothes discarded haphazardly with Spock so focused on their mental link. One of Spock’s knees slips between Jim’s thighs as he arches wantonly up into the friction it provides.
“Spock, I need—”
“Yes,” he says again, repositions his fingers along Jim’s face and dives in again, deeper this time, until he loses almost all sense of his body except that Jim is here, under him at last. “Deeper, Spock, more,” Jim breathes against Spock’s lips. “Want to feel you, Spock—”
Yes, Spock does not say, knows Jim can hear it anyway from the fresh wave of desire that pours off every inch of skin under him. They have a conversation with images in Spock’s head of just how long Jim has wanted this, Jim lying on his bed penetrating himself with his sex toy, imagining Spock in its stead. He moans in response, and he is already dripping with self-lubrication, so in one agonizing movement slides into Jim. Jim’s back arches off the bed, his eyes snapping open, inhaling and inhaling as if he cannot quite get enough air. Spock captures his lips in a searing kiss, bringing his other hand up and searching blindly for the psi points along the other side of his face. Jim’s fingers dragging along Spock’s back, urging him to move.
Almost, Jim, almost, Spock assures him, and yes, there, he feels a sharp spasm of pleasure and instinctively dives in again, finally pulling out of Jim slowly, snapping back in when Jim’s whimper becomes a long, low moan.
“Yes, yes, just like that,” Jim moans, tilting his hips and offering himself up to Spock.
Spock pushes into him, again and again, licking up the sweat that slides into the hollow of Jim’s neck, both his hands glued to Jim’s face. Mine, he thinks, at the swell of Jim’s lips. Mind, body, and katra, if you will have me, Jim—
“Fuck, Spock, yes,” Jim pants. “Love you, love you, so fucking much, for so fucking long, Spock, Spock—”
“Yes, Jim, Ashayam, always,” Spock returns, licking into his mouth.
He feels it when every muscle in Jim’s body contracts around him, feels the pull of pleasure in his mind when orgasm finally hits him, and after that it is only seconds before Spock follows him into climax.
Spock collapses atop Jim for a moment, but is only allowed a short respite before Jim spurs into motion again.
“So, um,” Jim says, sitting up and dropping his feet to the floor. He smiles sheepishly at the ground. “That kind of happened.”
“Yes,” Spock agrees. He too, sits up. Without the immediate demands of his body clouding Spock’s judgment, he is now suddenly unsure. Jim’s body language suggests that he is tense, perhaps regretting what has just transpired between them. “Was it—objectionable?”
“What? No,” Jim answers, looking up. He runs one of his hands through his hair. “Look, honestly, that was one of the greatest things I’ve ever experienced. Only, I need to know if you only looked for me out of some warped sense of misplaced duty or if today’s mission compromised you in a way that’ll make you regret coming here tonight.”
Spock takes a moment to consider his response to Jim. He remembers that communication and vulnerability are vital to any relationship. Vulnerability has always been difficult for Spock, but for Jim, he will try.
“Jim, we are clan,” Spock explains.
“I had hoped,” Jim says, his eyes tracing the lines of Spock’s face. “That’s what it means, right? When I used your clan name and you didn’t try to strangle me on the bridge the next day.”
“Yes, but more importantly, you—you are my home.”
Spock can hear all the breath leave Jim in a rush. A smile breaks over his face in a way that will never stop being fascinating.
“All right then,” he says. “In that case, will you stay? Here, with me, for a while?”
There is a mess slowly cooling on Jim’s stomach and a damp spot on his mattress. They both require a shower and time perhaps to process this change in their relationship.
“For as long as you will have me,” Spock says instead.
Neither of them moves for a moment, but then Jim takes a deep breath and slowly slides back over to Spock. Gently, he pushes Spock until he is lying flat on his back and drapes his own body along the length of Spock’s. He takes another deep breath; Spock can feel the exhale as rush of cool air across his chest.
“Is this okay?”
“It will suffice,” Spock replies, haltingly placing one arm across the small of Jim’s back.
“Mmm, one day I’ll teach you how to not talk in perpetual understatement,” Jim murmurs. “I love fucking as much as the next guy, but sometimes, this is all I really want.”
“When did you know?” Jim asks suddenly, some time later. His breathing pattern has at last evened out, his head resting on his forearms over Spock’s stomach, a small crinkling around the corners of his eyes. “Like, for sure?”
It is somewhat astonishing that Spock understands what Jim means to ask from that appallingly vague question. He raises an eyebrow, which serves to let out the smile Jim has been no doubt trying to suppress.
“Fourteen days, three hours, and forty nine seconds ago,” Spock answers. He feels a shiver of happiness race through Jim’s body at that, one that lingers even after he has schooled his features to look mockingly serious. “When did you first realize your own—feelings—towards me?”
“Since you walked onto my bridge on the first day of our mission,” Jim says around another smile. “But, I dunno. Maybe always. I feel like I’ve always felt this way. You know?”
He does not know, but it is not so difficult to believe Jim in this, not when he is sprawled over Spock comfortably, as if he is a blanket designed specifically to bring Spock warmth and pleasure. He ghosts his arm up over Jim’s thigh, across the swell of his buttocks, and up the ridges of his spine. Jim shivers in response and plants a series of kisses along Spock’s neck, his own hands beginning to wander teasingly over Spock’s body.
They spend some time together in this manner—seconds Spock has no desire to count—before they are interrupted by Jim’s communicator beeping. Jim breathes out a small laugh, hidden against Spock’s chest suddenly.
“We need to send Miranda Jones like, a bouquet of flowers or something,” he says. “Maybe give her a pay raise.”
“I doubt Counselor Jones would desire nothing more from us than to maintain emotional engagement,” Spock counters.
Jim laughs out loud at that, looks as if he may respond to the statement when they are interrupted.
“Bridge to Captain Kirk,” Sulu’s voice says from across the room. “Captain Kirk, respond.”
Jim utters an obscenity and drops his head heavily against Spock’s chest.
“This better be important,” he says and levers himself off the bed. Spock feels his absence as a draft of cold air along his entire frame. He considers sitting up to find Jim’s bed sheets, as they seem to have been a casualty to their coupling, but one simmering look thrown over Jim’s shoulder as he steps into pants and pulls on his command shirt keep him in place for the moment. Once Jim is presentable, he sits down at his desk and says, “What is it, Sulu?”
“There’s a Commodore Westervliet requesting beam-up to our ship, sir,” he says. “Priority One.”
“Shit,” Jim answers. “Did he say what he wants?”
“No sir,” is Sulu’s response. “He said he wouldn’t share that information with anyone but you.”
Spock sits up at that, begins to scan the room quickly for his clothes.
“Well fuck,” Jim groans, casting a somewhat wistful look in Spock’s direction before he turns back to the console. “Approve his transport. I’ll meet him in the transporter room.”
“Never a moment to ourselves,” Jim laments, watching Spock as he steps into pants and pulls on his black undershirt.
Spock lifts an eyebrow.
“Merely one aspect of captaining a starship,” Spock amends.
Jim smiles at that and looks away, a slight flush creeping up the back of his neck.
“You’re too damn hot in that undershirt,” he says, standing. “I’ve got to meet Westervliet, see what he wants. Meet me there?”
“Of course, Captain.”
Jim crosses to him quickly and places a soft kiss to Spock’s lips. Spock has to restrain himself from deepening it, as Jim is required in the transporter room very soon.
“See you soon,” he murmurs against Spock’s lips, and then he is gone, rushing out of his quarters and nearly tripping over a crewman walking by.
Spock allows himself a moment to bask in the familiarity of Jim’s rooms, knowing that he is trusted and welcome in his captain’s sanctuary, before he pulls on his science blues and does what he is now beginning to believe has been his destiny all along.
Spock follows him, but not before leaving a coded message for Jim on his console.
I am with you.