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Mutable Signs

Chapter Text

Even when the weather on Vulcan permitted, Spock was not the type who regularly ventured outdoors. This was not a statement about his relatively pampered life or his habits so much as his preferences, however, and the simple fact of the matter was that more often than not, Spock preferred not to be seen. He had his reasons for this, for preferring the quiet seclusion of the record keeper’s office— his  office—to the bright sun and thriving crowds of Vulcan citizens, reasons that would never be addressed out loud. He supposed his father made excuses for him or at least had done so up until Spock’s adulthood ceremony two months ago, excuses about how his hybrid nature made him susceptible to the heat, how busy he was running the estate of the great Lord Sarek, how he was ill, and they were excuses accepted easily by those few who cared or noticed his absence.

They were lies, fabricated because the truth was not Vulcan at all, or at least, not as Vulcan as it should have been.

Spock hated the slave market— hated  it. It was difficult living in Shi’Kahr, one of the largest slave ports on the planet surface due to their extensive crop production, because some things were inescapable, even indoors. He hated the smell of alien skin flayed open with horsewhips, a smell that lingered in the rare air of an open window. He hated the taste of dust that coated his tongue, dust that had not been doused with precious oil to prevent storms inside the market, as after all, the oil was significantly more expensive than easily-replaceable aliens. He hated the screams of slaves, noises that permeated the walls with their alien pitch and the unmistakable sound of agony. He hated all of this…but he hated it more because it reminded him of his own origins, and that reason was what kept him inside more than anything. What kept him accepting his father’s excuses for his avoidance, even though Spock knew them to be false and unnecessary.

He was a coward, too scared to go outside…too scared that, even after all these years, he might run into  her , the woman who had borne him, the slave who had been sold three weeks after his birth. He had no name and no image in his mind to describe her and so would not recognize her, but—and of this he was certain—she would not doubt recognize him: except for a few minor details, he had his father’s face.

And so it was that he stayed inside. His office was small and secluded and peaceful, and it was his home, more so than the grand bedchamber three floors above or any other room in the holding, despite the fact he was afforded relative luxury as Lord Sarek’s second son, the last child he could ever have. Surrounded by dusty books and neatly organized ledgers and electronic files that he did not use, Spock felt useful, felt wanted, even if his presence never was by anyone except his irritatingly persistent elder brother.

Said elder brother who, as it happened, was throwing balled up parchment at him even then.

“Spock.” A piece struck the back of his head, and Spock brushed it off his shoulder. Another piece flew, tiny but noticeable, to land on his desk and open ledger, and he brushed that aside as well.

Spock . Don’t ignore me!”

Spock turned to the form draped over his second desk, the desk belonging to his assistant who was rarely present. His assistant who, like so many others before him, was also one of his brother’s numerous acquaintances, perhaps even a hunting partner.

“Yes, Sybok?”

Sybok tapped his foot impatiently, and although Spock had acknowledged him, he continued to tear the expensive parchment into tiny squares that he then flicked at Spock’s ears. By looking at his behavior, it was difficult to imagine that Sybok was in fact a full six years older.

“You work too much, you know that, don’t you?” It was a continual point of contention between them: the idea that Spock worked too much and that Sybok did not work at all, choosing his folly of hunting and gambling and beautiful bed partners over the training that he should rightly have been doing, the training necessary for his brother’s eventual ascension to his title.

But because Sybok was Lord Sarek’s favorite and eldest son, Spock only ever lost this argument.

“If I did not work so much, brother, the estate would have no records for the planting season, no records of those employed or owned, no record of our military capabilities, and no record of even legal birthrights.”

“You have an assistant, don’t you? Let  him  do it.” Sybok’s stubborn insistence on the matter made Spock make a soft noise of exasperation in his throat, and then he twisted in his seat, turning back to his neat columns of figures.

“Selek is unreliable, as you are aware. His calculations also contain numerous errors that would result in several families going hungry during the burning season.”

Sybok suddenly appeared by Spock’s ear, the point of his chin and the soft press of his beard digging into the tendons of Spock’s shoulder.

“Spock, you need a day off. Come on, even just one night; come hunting with us in Ralash-Fam Forest . We both know you’re an excellent shot.”

Even with his only true friend so close to him, Spock found it remarkably easy to refuse the request, bolstered by the knowledge that the dry woods of Vulcan were home to thousands of unmarked graves under its trees. The very idea made him shudder.

“No, thank you.”

Sybok—used to rejection—was not deterred.

“Then drinking! There are alien wines in the restaurant across from the Bara House; a warm body and a drink would do you good, baby brother.”

“Sybok, I am quite busy.” The words came out firmer than Spock had intended, and he wished to take them back immediately…but he did not. Instead, he compromised, giving his brother full rein to pester him again. “Perhaps another time?”

Sybok leaned back, but his huff of irritation still brushed Spock’s neck.

“Another time, ha! You haven’t done anything since your adulthood ceremony two months ago, nothing except reject that girl who threw herself at you.”

“I would not disgrace my future wife in such a manner.” The future wife who Spock was careful to keep unnamed, in any case. Many believed him to be engaged to T’Pring, the fierce daughter of a neighboring lord. While this may have been technically true, both he and T’Pring knew the actual reality—it was an engagement that would never become a marriage, not if either of them could help it.

Sybok, however, was smarter than he seemed, and he of course knew all of this, as well as a fair share that Spock himself did not.

“What’s to disgrace? You know she’s banging her father’s assistant—everyone knows it. I wouldn’t be surprised if she were pregnant by now, and everyone knows you can’t have children.”

Everyone , Sybok, seems to consist only of your gossiping friends, and you’ll forgive me if I find them less than credible.”

Sybok waved a hand in dismissal; Spock saw it reflected on his metal mug of cold tea, long since forgotten, and he turned reluctantly to face his brother again.

“Be that as it may, Spock…you’re an adult, and I know men half your age who have already fathered children. You haven’t taken a woman, or even a man, brother. People are beginning to talk.”

The warning went unheeded.

“Let them.” People had talked about him for ages, after all; this new rumor—that he was impotent rather than celibate—was only one more to add to his growing list of oddities. Sybok, however, took the matter much more seriously. Well, as seriously as he did anything.

“And have my household shamed? Have people look down on my brother, and call him less than a man? No. Trust me, this is for your own good…and it’s long overdue.” The last words were added almost as an afterthought, and the tone was not like his brother at all, matched by an expression without his customary smile. Spock frowned.


As quickly as it had come, the expression faded, wiped away with another dismissive wave of Sybok’s hand.

“Nothing. See you at dinner?”

Spock nodded slowly in response to the light invitation and the apparent and temporary surrender of the matter. It was not like Sybok at all.

“Of course.” Spock had never missed dinner in the main hall with his brother, despite the fact that he sometimes wished to do so. It was a tradition he was loath to relinquish, and one Sybok always reminded him of. It was  their tradition…but for the first time in a long while, Spock felt as though Sybok had something else in mind.


Spock did not accomplish much that afternoon, despite the full schedule that he had planned for the day. They were not urgent matters—planting season did not begin for several months in Shi’Kahr and its neighboring territory, after all—but they were things that he normally did not mind attending to months before orders for seeds were even accepted, much less asked for. Surveying the last year’s crop production and status of the soil, planning the plant rotation, ordering more equipment where needed, providing funds to those who had little but were still essential to the thriving economy…it was a series of jobs that Spock found rewarding, and although it was not possible to accomplish so many things in a just one day, the weeks long process was something that he nonetheless attempted to complete in a single afternoon. Or at least, that was his normal routine, and had been since he had become Sarek’s record keeper at the tender age of fifteen, a decade and a half ago.

Today, however, he had been distracted. It was not something he liked to admit to, but long after Sybok had left, his presence had lingered in the room, or at least his words had. Spock was suspicious of such an easy capitulation, and it heralded one of Sybok’s plots. Usually they were harmless, but sometimes…well, at times they were  less  harmless, as dangerous as that time Sybok had felt it wise to release an entire zoo worth of animals, and Spock was not in the mood to deal with either childish pranks or treacherous meddling. And so, rather than performing the necessary tasks for the upcoming months, Spock found himself wondering what Sybok was up to, and how he could stop it. Refusal alone did not work, as Sybok was incredibly persistent. Logical alternatives worked as far as Spock could see, but devising them required knowledge about Sybok’s initial plan, which is something he did not have. Appealing to Sarek worked…but it was something Spock would rather avoid, as Sarek was a stern man who—despite loving his sons dearly—did not countenance bickering among them, and knew well the best punishments for these matters, for them  both . With no other alternatives, Spock did his best to brace himself for the problems that would soon manifest, expecting them that evening, or even at dinner with Sybok, Sarek, and their selected friends.

Except…there was nothing. Everyone laughed or didn’t as was their norm, with Spock speaking only when spoken to or otherwise politely ignoring the remarks from Suvar, one of Sybok’s more insufferable friends who had never liked Spock and always belittled him. The food was delicious and served by servants and slaves who kept themselves politely invisible, and Spock was very careful—always careful—to give proper thanks under his breath, even when the people in question could not hear him.

All in all, it was a typical meal in the House of Sarek, concluded quickly and formally. Sybok was very proficient at his duty as an older brother, and Spock was never entirely forgotten or dismissed. It was times like this that Spock truly loved his brother…and then he remembered that he was most likely to be ambushed with some dastardly scheme quite shortly.

It never came. Before Spock could think to ask, dinner was concluded, dessert in the form of alcohol and dry cake was consumed rapidly, and those who were inclined left for nighttime activities. Spock, for his part, did what he usually did in the late evenings: prepared for bed, sat in his bedchamber, and read. His selection was limited as he did not have personal servants and didn’t often visit open markets himself, but what texts he did have—religious works and the like—were things he treasured, with or without a physical copy. It was a peaceful hobby, much as his life was, and he lounged in bed with the shutters closed and the artificial lighting dimmed, holding a slim device just inches from his chest as he perused the words like each was a rare treasure.

Naturally, that was when there was a knock at his door, and Spock was surprised even as he automatically slid his datapadd onto his nightstand and rose. It was fortunate he was still wearing his robe, and that he had always preferred pajamas at night.

“Come in,” he called, and the door opened to reveal a young man of average height with a bland haircut and a forgettable face. Nonetheless, Spock remembered his name, for he was Sybok’s personal assistant.


Kuvon inclined his head in greeting.

“Yes, Mister Spock.”

The respectful address did not surprise Spock, as Kuvon had always liked him as much as a servant ever liked the masters of their house. Spock, in return, was always polite and inquisitive, perhaps too much so in light of his position.

“How may I help you? Is Abigail settling in well?” Abigail was a young woman who had recently been added to their household, with dark skin and dark eyes and a facial structure that suggested Cardassian lineage although her name suggested otherwise. Kuvon was quite taken with her, and had enlisted Spock’s knowledge of the ins and outs of the house when she had first arrived, weeks ago now.

Kuvon looked startled, as if he thought Spock had forgotten so quickly, and then he looked slightly sheepish.

“Yes, sir. Thank you for asking, sir. My master sent me with a gift for you, however—to celebrate your adulthood ceremony. He says he had forgotten until this afternoon, and begs your pardon.”

“A gift?” Spock felt his eyes narrow. “What kind of gift?”

Kuvon smiled politely.

“A Kirk, sir.”

“A Kirk?” Spock repeated, and then he frowned. The word was not Vulcan, that was certain, but even with his knowledge of several trading languages, he could not place its origins or its meaning. “What exactly is a Kirk?”

Kuvon bowed slightly, and then gestured in the direction of the hallway, a gesture easily interpreted as “come here.” Spock’s suspicions worsened.

“Mister Spock, may I present Kirk? He is a newly acquired slave, and Sybok wishes to give him to you.”

The second door opened, and Spock was not ashamed to say that he was struck dumb, momentarily, by the appearance of the young man named Kirk. Not just by the tight clothing he wore, also of unrecognizable origins but bearing clear signs of being selected to suit his form best, nor because his coloring was odd— human —with gold hair and pink-hued skin and blue eyes. No, Spock was more startled by the fact that he noticed his eye color at all—specifically, because Kirk  was meeting his eyes, something that not even lifelong servants of the House of Sarek dared to do.

Sybok had given him a bedslave, and a  defiant  bedslave nonetheless. Spock was going to kill him, but first…”Kuvon, there must be some mistake.”

Kuvon frowned minutely, the expression just barely a dip of his lips.

“Not that I am aware of, sir. He specifically stated that Kirk was to go to you after his arrival this evening.”

Spock winced internally; it was likely, then, that Sybok had been planning this for some time. That would make it difficult to return Kirk to whichever market he had been purchased from, and Spock was not looking forward to it.

“He said that, did he?”

“Yes, sir.”

Spock sighed and glanced at Kirk, who watched them both intently. Spock rubbed the bridge of his nose wearily.

“Kuvon, Sybok knows I do not keep slaves. At all. Neither does he, in fact.” For Spock, it was a matter of not needing extra help in any way. He had no land to be maintained, and he did not require a personal assistant; even if he had, he would likely have filled these places with paid workers, as Sybok had done. The idea that Sybok would get him a slave—specifically  this kind of slave —was both odd and troubling.

Did Sybok believe he was so desperate that someone had to be enslaved for his use…and a man at that? Where on Vulcan had Sybok gotten such an idea?

“I believe there are extenuating circumstances, but I did not ask. Am I to understand you are refusing Master Sybok’s gift?”

A person is not a gift.  Spock didn’t say it; he knew this opinion was unpopular, and influenced by reading the works of peaceful peoples when he was too young to understand that such a philosophy was not the Vulcan way.

“Yes. Yes, I am.” He did not look at Kirk again, certain the man still watched them, and certain that the rejection was clear. Slave or not, it must have hurt to be rejected.

Kuvon looked…surprised, and strangely disappointed at Spock’s response. Surely he did not believe Spock would accept the strange  gift ? However, his next words made the expression clear.

“Very well. Mister Suvar also expressed some interest in ownership, so I will confer with Sybok on this matter.”

“Suvar?” Spock swallowed reflexively, and his stomach twisted. Suvar was known for cruelty, and he was one of many who considered any sort of being—even intelligent beings!—disposable. “Kuvon, wait.” Kuvon did indeed pause in his farewell bow, and he looked at Spock questioningly. Kirk still watched them. “He may remain here until I speak with my brother.”

“Very good, sir. I will inform Master Sybok.” Kuvon dipped a quick bow, and Spock knew exactly how this was going to go.

“Kuvon—” But Kuvon was already gone, having unloaded his burden on Spock, and unloaded it easily. Spock turned to look at said burden, who was leaning casually against the nearest wall and still watching Spock with those unnerving, insolent eyes. Spock didn’t even know if he  understood Vulcan.

“Your name is Kirk, correct?”

“That’s me.” Well, that answered the question of whether or not he knew the language. It was a relief, not having to teach him the words, but it also presented another problem. If Kirk was familiar enough with their language, he must have been familiar with their culture, and yet he still stared rather than respectfully lowering his eyes.

He did not behave like a slave should have.

“And your age?”

A shrug this time, and his tone was lazy. Disinterested.

“I’m old enough.”

A sudden thought occurred to Spock, and he cursed Sybok for the hundredth time that night. Kirk was a bedslave—his clothes and appearance attested to this—but what if he was new at this? Freshly captured?

“Where are you from?”

Oh, there was wariness then. Wariness and annoyance, and Spock was almost…amused? Curious.

“None of your business.”

Spock sighed and walked towards the inner room; if asked, he would not say he was pacing. Kirk followed, at least enough to take in Spock’s relatively garish bedroom—the decorations were not his choice or his expense, and Spock wondered what opinion Kirk formed without understanding that simple fact.

And all the while, Spock watched him, watched the way he moved with confidence rather than caution, boldness rather than respect even for his surroundings and the danger they might have brought. It was something Spock could almost say was an admirable trait, if misplaced in a slave.

“You are from one of the Terran colonies, I suppose,” Spock finally concluded, and Kirk’s back stiffened noticeably.

“Why do you think that?”

The answer was simple to Spock.

“You do not have the good sense to be scared.” As humans were, as they should have been. Vulcan had been conquering planets for hundreds of years before they even became interested in the tiny planet of Earth, and when not conquering, they had been devising new and better ways to do so. Any species that had achieved warp drive only in the past two centuries should have been scared of such experience, and most of them were…but not Kirk.

“Why should I be scared? You’re just like humans.”

“Just like humans?” Spock repeated the words softly, and he waited for Kirk to nod before he dove at him, knocking him to the silk bedspread and pinning him easily. Kirk looked startled and then he looked annoyed, but Spock paid no heed; there were some things that every being on Vulcan learned eventually, after all, and although he found the actions distasteful, Kirk would have to learn that Vulcans were dangerous creatures in many ways. “Vulcans have three times the speed and strength of humans. Our natural lives are twice as long. According to many sources, our wits are keener and our intelligence greater. No, we are not like humans. However…it would be inaccurate to say that we do not share some weaknesses.”

The speech ended quickly, and it was followed by an irritated noise from Kirk as he pushed ineffectively at Spock’s hands on his shoulders, and then—clearly realizing that Spock was not to be moved that way—he attempted to free his lower body from the clasp of Spock’s knees on either side of his hips. This also did not work, and it was also an important lesson; before long, Kirk was huffing from the effort, his cheeks and neck flushed a darker pink and his skin shone with sweat, and he was still quite trapped.

At this point, Spock had the rather startling thought that—objectively speaking—Kirk was quite attractive…in an alien way. He supposed that was why Sybok had chosen him; after deciding that Vulcans failed to stir Spock’s blood, he must have concluded that human coloring might instinctively be more appealing, at least to one-half of his genetics. He was wrong, of course, but Spock could see why he would make such assumptions. Kirk was really  very  attractive, and a bedslave besides.  Had  Sybok been correct (which, Spock repeated to himself, he most certainly was not) Spock would have had a lover for the first time in his life.

It was an interesting thought.

“Would you please me, I wonder?” Spock didn’t realize that he’d murmured the words into open air until Kirk’s eyes widened.

No. ” The revulsion in that single word alone was enough to snuff whatever ideas had been brewing in Spock’s head. He was relieved to find it that simple, that a single clear rejection was enough—for a moment, he had doubted, wondered perhaps if he was an animal who did not care about consent, who did not care about the misery and fear transmitted through touch. Still, it would have made his life much easier if Sybok had believed Spock had arousal for Kirk that was genuine and strong and unquenchable, like that of most male Vulcans newly into adulthood.

Spock had never experienced arousal in his life, and he didn’t now. It made it easy to release a clearly-alarmed Kirk and roll to the side without a second glance.

“You are probably correct. I am sure Sybok will be displeased to discover this, but no matter. You are here now, and—I assure you—quite safe.” He glanced back at Kirk, who was still lying on the ruby-colored comforter , looking startled now. Spock looked away quickly, not entirely sure he was comfortable with the idea that Kirk was  puzzled  by the fact he had been released when he was obviously unwilling. “I have never kept a slave before, much less one with your…assigned role. The rules are different between the two cases, and I do not know them.”

Kirk seemed to recover enough to shift, and to snort.

“Gee, I feel terrible about that.”

“For the time being, you will sleep there,” Spock continued, ignoring him as he pointed to an open corner in his spacious bedroom. Currently there was a broken, poorly-crafted settee occupying that space, but Spock imagined the cushions would be welcome, at least as a temporary bed. “I will look into acquiring you some bedclothes for the future as necessary, but for the moment, the nights are warm and it is not required.”

“We sleep in the same room?” Kirk asked unnecessarily, and Spock nodded.

“Of course,” he replied, not looking to see if Kirk was unduly bothered by that fact. He was surprised to find he did not wish to know. “It would look odd otherwise, and as Sybok is the one who gave you to me…” He did not explain any further, and he doubted he needed to. It was important not to offend Sybok.

“Yeah, and why’d he do that? Your girlfriend not giving it up?”

Spock looked at Kirk with a frown on his face, not understanding the majority of what he had said, as his words slipped easily between standard Vulcan and what he suspected was a common English phrase.

“You mean my  inamorata ?” After all, Spock had no idea what a “girlfriend” was, although he could guess. The only equivalent word he could think of happened to be Italian, and he was surprised when Kirk seemed to understand it. He was more surprised to see Kirk look at  him  with surprise.

“Yeah, whatever.”

“No, that is not my situation.”

“Oh.” The subject was changed quickly. “What should I call you, anyway? ‘Cause I sure as hell ain’t calling you  master.

Spock felt his lips twitch for the first time in weeks. No, months—since his adulthood ceremony, in fact.

“You may call me Mister Spock.”

Kirk nodded at the response, looking contemplative.

“Spock, huh? Very Vulcan.”

Spock was surprised at the compliment.

“Thank you.”

Kirk looked at him like he was afflicted with some manner of mental disorder, and then laughed quietly. Laughter was also not a common occurrence in Spock’s world, and he considered—very briefly—that he might miss Kirk after he returned him to Sybok. The man was simply a compilation of rarities, and it was oddly charming. Dangerous, but charming.

“Sure, no problem.”

Spock let silence fill the room, and—as an afterthought—he removed the red comforter from his bed and piled it on the settee. Additional padding, as it were, and if Kirk were an experienced bedslave, he was undoubtedly used to beds himself, something that Spock could not provide readily. He would, however, have to provide him with more appropriate clothes, and this brought up a question that he should have addressed earlier.

“Do you have any possessions? I will fetch them from my brother if so.”

The mention of Sybok seemed to spur Kirk into action, or at least compliance with his station.

“Nah, don’t worry about it—I’ll fetch. I  love  to fetch.”

“Very well. The door will be unlocked until you return, but please remember to lock it behind you.”

Kirk nodded and slipped out the door without another word, and Spock took the opportunity to burrow himself in his own blankets, giving the command for the lights immediately afterwards. Although he was not tired, he still closed his eyes determinedly, forgetting about both his plans to read and the relatively early hour.

It was awkward enough when they were awake and in the same room; perhaps it would be better if they were asleep. And so, without another thought as to the logic of this theory, Spock willed himself to sleep.