The Enterprise was quiet, it was late and only a skeleton crew tended to her, making sure that she was prepped for her scheduled overhaul the following day, an overhaul that would take her out of commission for at least a month, probably two.
She was safely ensconced in spacedock and her captain could have left her already, but he'd wanted to finish a few last minute things before he headed off for first, a final dinner with Spock, then a week's rest in Iowa. He'd be returning to Starfleet HQ for courses and a few seminars before he'd be back in the captain's seat of the Enterprise.
He stood to switch off his monitor for the last time in a long while, when it beeped at him. An incoming message. Not only marked as high priority, but very heavily encrypted as well.
Frowning, Jim sat back down at his desk and fought with the cipher for a few minutes. It was not a standard fleet encryption and it was harder to crack than most of the ones he'd encountered before. Finally it yielded to him and Pike's face appeared on the screen. It was a recording and one that had Jim reeling.
He sat completely still for a moment after the transmission had finished playing, staring unseeingly at the monitor. As still as one of the statues in front of the academy. Something clicked and Jim moved again, furiously typing on his keypad to delete the transmission, to hide he'd ever received it, to execute several small subroutines in the ship's computer, making sure they spilled over into the fleet-wide database, knowing he'd made them well enough, that they'd do so flawlessly without being traceable back to him. Every and any trace of the transmission would disappear.
He grabbed his bag and dumped a few of his books back out of it, keeping only the most necessary. The rest he gave a last lingering look after depositing them on a shelf. He'd be back. Too bad about missing that dinner with Spock.
Shutting off the last of the light, he let the door to his home slide shut with one last lingering look.
He would be back. There was no room for doubts. He was not leaving his ship and crew forever.
After having stored his nondescript duffle bag under the bed, Spock sat down on the hard floor, meditation long overdue. While he could go for a long time without it, the past week and a half, spent looking for a missing James T. Kirk, had been taxing and he had not had the time he would normally set aside for it.
Focusing on his task, Spock let his mind work meticulously through the leads he had gathered up till this point. There had been more than one dead end through the last forty-six hours. It should not come as a surprise to him that following his captain's trail, when said man did not want to be found, would be difficult.
If Spock had been prone to worrying, he would be worried about Jim Kirk's behavior, but as it were, the only thing on his mind was the man's safety. No matter what Starfleet command insinuated he may or may not be involved in, Spock would reserve judgment for when he had all the facts.
Anything less, would be unprofessional, not to mention, highly illogical.
It had been fifteen months and ten days since they had set out on their first scheduled five-year-mission. Normally, they would not have returned to Earth as they had after such short time, but the Enterprise had taken a few rather hard hits during a neutrino storm and their getting too close to an unstable asteroid belt.
It had not improved the ship's state that they had encountered two Romulan warbirds on their way back to the nearest base. After those skirmishes, they had been in need of spare parts and repairs that could not be carried out in deep space.
No matter how well Chief Engineer Scott did his job and however creative he was, he could not make the necessary parts appear from nothing. So they had returned to Earth and Spock had looked forward to turning his attention to working through some of the data they had collected and to spend time teaching classes on deep space telemetry and astronomy.
Knowing Jim Kirk, of course Spock should have 'expected the unexpected', as Doctor McCoy would have phrased it.
Speaking of the doctor, Spock was expecting him to catch up before his current transport left port. He was rather counting on it. Since he had left Earth, using a non-existent family situation as an excuse, he fully expected McCoy to see right through said prevarications – and would Kirk not approve of such subterfuge? Of course Spock did not seek Kirk's approval, but... since they had set out on their mission, the Captain had become almost as important as family to him.
A chime at the door and Spock let it pull him out of his meditation. Rising to his feet, he took a stance in the middle of the cabin. It was small, not leaving much room for him, but he stayed where he was, between the two bunks lining the walls.
"Enter," he said, clasping his hands behind his back.
The door slid open and Spock was not surprised to see the scowling man on the other side.
"You are one hard, green-blooded bastard to find," McCoy growled, stalking into the room, throwing his bag onto one of the beds.
Spock refrained from answering, as he had long since learned that the doctor needed no prompting to speak his mind.
"I asked you, when Demmings was done grilling us both about Jim's whereabouts, what we were going to do about it and you said, and I quote: 'The captain is a grown man, and I am sure he will be cleared of these charges in time.' And then you walked out on me!"
Spock raised an eyebrow. As was often the case, the doctor was suffering from selective memory. "It is true that I said the captain would be cleared in time, but at no point did I claim I would not aid him."
McCoy sputtered. "Damn it, man, lying by omission is still lying."
"I had made no decision as to which action to pursue," Spock replied, "therefore I could not have made you aware of my, at the time, non-existing plans."
McCoy glared at him and sat down on the bed, obviously running out of steam. "Splitting hairs as always," he mumbled, rubbing tired eyes.
Spock understood his frustration. While he could keep his own at bay, he was not above acknowledging it. Trying to follow Jim, when he did not want them to, trying to find out what was going on at the same time and whether or not there was anything behind the actual, vague accusations that Captain Demmings of Starfleet Security had made... It was a frustrating endeavor. Spock could have imagined an easier situation to be in, but he knew his captain and was not about to simply give up.
Not now that he had a lead that he was sure was ninety-two percent correct.
"While impulsiveness is not in my nature," Spock said quietly as he sat down opposite McCoy to avoid looming over him, "I was aware that the situation for Captain Kirk may be more dire than we first thought."
"Isn't it enough that the fleet thinks he's aiding a criminal?" McCoy asked, leaning back against the bulkhead.
"I attempted to gain information from Admiral Pike," Spock explained, letting his mind replay the short conversation he had been subjected to.
"What did Pike have to say?"
"Very little," Spock admitted, "although I had the impression that he was hiding something, that he was trying to protect Kirk."
"I'm not surprised," McCoy said. At Spock's questioning eyebrow, he continued. "The Admiral was always interested in Jim's progress at the Academy, and we both know that he wanted him to have the Enterprise. I'm sure Jim's and your rescue of him from the Narada didn't hurt the cause."
"Indeed, the Admiral does favor Captain Kirk, but even so, he is loyal to Starfleet. If he is trying to cover for Kirk, I am sure he believes him to be innocent. As it is," Spock continued, "I am not willing to consider him guilty until faced with solid proof of such."
"Like I would do any different," McCoy drawled. "And you don't seem to be surprised by my showing up here, either."
Spock raised an eyebrow and kept his face neutral. "You have a tenacious personality, Doctor, and you would no more turn your back on James Kirk than I would," he paused and watched McCoy curiously gazing back. "Also, there is a sixty-six percent chance that you will be of use at a later point, knowing Jim's habit for finding trouble."
"Thanks," McCoy said with a glare. "More like trouble finding him."
"Thanking me for making an observation is illogical, Doctor," Spock said quietly, not because he didn't know this was a purely human thing to do, but because he knew it would rile the doctor up and thus make him worry less about Jim for a while, there was no reason for him not to indulge.
"Your ears are illogical!" McCoy sputtered.
Spock refrained from commenting. There was riling the doctor up and then there was, as Jim would put it, 'poking a rabid badger with a stick'.
McCoy watched him for a moment and Spock would have, if he were human, been feeling wary.
"You gonna tell me why you're here? And don't give me that loyalty schtick," McCoy rumbled.
"I owe Jim this," Spock admitted readily. The closer he was to the truth, the easier it was to convince McCoy that that was all it was. The easier it would be to cling to that reason.
"Owe him? And I think this is the first time I've heard you calling him anything but Captain,"
"We are not on duty and Jim is now considered AWOL. It does not hurt our search and Jim's case to avoid drawing attention by using his full name in public." Spock paused for a moment. "We are looking for 'Jim', not the renowned Captain Kirk."
"I expected you to claim it was out of loyalty to your Captain and superior officer," McCoy said, eyes never leaving Spock's.
"I am doing this out of loyalty," Spock replied, sitting back on the bed, folding his hands in his lap. "Loyalty to a man who forgave me my transgressions upon his person."
"As a friend then. I didn't think Vulcans did friends," McCoy replied.
Spock had no trouble recognizing his own words, spoken early on, after the first month of their five-year-mission. "Indeed." It had been Kirk who had dragged a reluctant Spock into his circle of close friends and Kirk who had proven his words wrong.
"I hate you," McCoy muttered, but there was no negative emotion to his words.
"If I were prone to displays of emotion, I believe I would claim 'the feeling's mutual'," Spock replied, keeping his tone as even as always.
McCoy stared at him and then threw his head back, laughing loudly. Only, his momentum was so he whacked the back of his head against the bulkhead. "Ow!"
"Please be careful, Doctor. It would be illogical for you to harm yourself. You may yet be needed for your medical skills when we find Jim."
McCoy snorted. "Indeed," he said with a grin.
Spock did not miss the visible decrease of tension in the man's body and considered his goal reached successfully.
Captain Kirk came around his desk and leaned back to sit on it. He kept his gaze on Spock's, never for a moment wavering.
"We didn't so much get off on the wrong foot as we've stomped all over each other's feet," he said by way of greeting.
Spock stayed where he was, a few feet away, hands clasped behind his back. He was still getting used to his captain's way of dealing with situations, not to mention his crew.
Jim grinned. "What I mean is that ... we're supposed to be working together and I know we won't operate like perfectly oiled machinery this early on, but..." Kirk trailed off, watching Spock with a yearning that should have frightened him.
He did, however, understand it. He had spoken with his counterpart before making his decision to stay with Starfleet. Still, he had taken on the part of Kirk's voice of reason already. "Forcing it to work may have a detrimental effect."
Jim sighed explosively. "I know! But I'm an illogical human being, I wantthis, and I want it yesterday."
Spock raised an eyebrow, letting his opinion on Kirk's choice of words shine through clearly.
Kirk rolled his eyes. "Don't give me a lecture on the impossibility of time travel. You know what I meant."
"On the contrary. I am sure time travel will prove to be possible in the future at some point. It is merely an equation waiting to be discovered."
Kirk's gaze softened visibly. "I adore your nerdy love affair with science," he said with a small laugh.
Spock fought down an unfamiliar flutter in his chest. "I do not even know where to begin with a reply to your illogical choice of words."
"Don't bother, Spock," Kirk said, still grinning as he smacked Spock on the shoulder.
Spock was unsure how he felt about this habit of Kirk's, even more so, how he was supposed to react to it. Part of him balked at the familiarity of such a touch, yet part of him welcomed this openness that Kirk showed him. It would never be what he had witnessed so far between Dr. McCoy and Kirk, but he knew his own limitations well enough to admit that he would not be comfortable with their level of interaction.
" Take it as a compliment. You like your science and I like the way you go at it," Kirk continued, leaning back on his hands. "Tenacious."
His position showed off his fitness and the ease with which he inhabited his own body. A skill that Spock was illogically jealous of.
Spock raised his eyebrow. "I could choose to describe the way you act, using the very same word."
"See, we are alike in some ways," Jim replied with glee.
"May Surak pray for our katras," Spock said drily. He was finding it harder not to play along the more time he spent in the captain's company.
Kirk's eyes widened comically. "Was that a joke?" he asked in disbelief. "It was a joke!"
Spock kept his face expressionless, but he had to admit to himself that he quite enjoyed being the cause of his captain's mirth. "Vulcans do not joke, Captain."
Kirk raised an eyebrow at him. "Nor do they pray to their gods since the Time of Awakening," he replied drily, "and it's Jim, Spock, we're off duty at the moment."
Spock didn't answer, but he could read the challenge in Kirk's eye and he knew this would not be the last time they would have this conversation.