Spock’s bedroom on Earth would be called spacious by almost everyone’s standards. His parents allocated him almost the entire third level in the building -adequate room to meditate, study, and exercise- upon their arrival one year ago. His father out of practical reasons, his mother for reasons Spock believes might be partially grounded in emotions. Perhaps guilt for uprooting his life on Vulcan. Or out of an impulse to cosset him as human mothers are prone to. Both unnecessary.
The space is minimal and open, per Vulcan tradition, but never seems as small as it does with James Tiberius Kirk at the centre of it. With Jim comes a presence that seems to large to be contained by his adolescent body. Jim is a bright blaze of fire and gold, feelings boldly crackling in the air around him in a way that would be considered shameful on Spock’s home planet. But there’s never shame in the kaleidoscope of Jim’ many human emotions. Only anger.
Spock observes Jim from his mat on the floor. He had been meditating when interrupted by Jim climbing in through the window to unapologetically rummage through his drawers. Jim has taken to keeping many of his things at Spock’s place where they cannot be confiscated by his mother or teachers. A safe place as Spock’s parents haven’t entered his room or gone through his possessions without his explicit permission since he was four.
“May I enquire to the reason for your presence?”
Jim turns over one of his data pads in his hand before depositing it back where he found it.
“They’re sending her up soon.”
After a year on Earth, Spock has become very familiar with how humans will eschew clear and concise language in favour of a mixture of verbal and nonverbal cues. Jim in particular will start every conversation somewhere in the middle, brain ten steps ahead of his words, confident Spock will catch up to him. This time it’s easy. The newest addition to the fleet has been nearly all that Jim has spoken of these last few months.
“The final stages of assembly will require the ship to be in orbit.”
Jim’s bright blue eyes lock with Spock’s briefly before he returns to his task of depositing and retrieving his belongings in Spock’s space at will.
“It’ll be impossible to get to her up there.”
Spock knows this to be the truth. But he has also learned that for however loud and brash Vulcans and humans alike might consider Jim to be, the things Jim does not say or do can be just as telling.
“You do not possess access clearance to it on Earth either.”
Jim sighs and rolls his eyes towards the heavens, indicating that he finds Spock particularly obtuse at this moment. The gesture used to irk Spock. Maybe it still would if he wasn’t trained from a young age in controlling such a feeling because –despite Jim possessing a remarkable mind compared to his human peers— Spock has been at the top of his classes for his entire life, even back on Vulcan where his genetic heritage was thought to put him at a disadvantage. And these days he’s more aware of Jim’s tendency to manipulate others into action by appealing to their baser instincts. Like pride.
“Y’know, I’ve found that a lot of the times it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.”
There’s a tremor in Spock’s eyebrow that has started to plague him ever since his family moved to Iowa.
“You are choosing short term gratification over long-term gains. Your freedom gets reduced every time you break the rules people set for you.” Jim seems completely preoccupied with packing his bag while Spock considers this a notion worth his attention. “Some might call that short-sightedness.”
The tool Spock gifted Jim for his birthday, a scanner of Vulcan technology that had made Jim come alight upon receiving it, is shoved into the bottom of his bag.
“She would never let me.”
Spock has little doubt that Admiral Winona Kirk would not grant access to two members of the public to roam around on what was going to be Starfleet’s most technological advanced ship in the fleet. Regardless of one of them being her youngest son. Or the other the son of one of their most important foreign diplomats.
“You should address your query through the proper channels.”
“What’s the point of proper channels if they’re not gonna listen anyway? All that’ll accomplish is tipping them off.” Jim zips the bag closed with unnecessary force and smiles a smile that Spock isn’t sure could be qualified as a smile at all. A sharp and cutting thing showing teeth but no happiness. “Wouldn’t be the same anyway. There’s a difference with having to make do with what people give you and just going out there and capturing it.”
Spock has noticed a growing fascination on Jim’s part with stealing, both in the literal and metaphorical sense, that he firmly resolves to curb in the future.
“I agree,” Spock says, eyes firmly locked with Jim’s. “Things freely given and things taken by force cannot be considered the same.”
Silence can be even louder than words when wielded by James Tiberius Kirk. He lets his gaze wander pointedly across Spock’s room and the sophisticated educational tools provided within it. Material possessions that Spock doesn’t share with anyone but Jim.
“Some are given more than others.”
Jealousy. An emotion even humans strive to repress. But Spock knows that it doesn’t drive Jim as much as it controls many other humans he has encountered. Fairness. Injustice. Those are the primary motivators of Jim’s anger even at his relatively young age.
“Yes,” Spock acknowledges. “We are not born equal.”
There’s a pause to Jim, as if he’s deciding whether he will allow Spock's acknowledgement of his world view to kill the momentum of his growing anger. Within their time together, Spock has become apt at sensing and steering Jim’s moods in a way no one else in Jim’s life has. And Jim, possessing great skill at picking people’s motivations apart himself, seems to constantly swing between joy at being known by Spock and fearful rebellion at being so completely seen by another person.
Vulnerability. Jim hardly ever shows it like he does now, body still and voice soft: "What if this is my only chance? To be on a ship like her?”
Fear. Spock has discovered that in Jim fear and anger run close at times. Sometimes Jim chooses anger because he prefers it over the cold touch of fear. Fear at not living up to his parents, fear of never leaving Iowa, fear of never exploring the stars. His dreams slowly suffocating between the endless oppressive stretches of corn until they die.
“You’ll serve aboard many star ships when you join Starfleet,” Spock says decisively. Like there is no doubt Jim will join the ranks of Earth’s primary space branch. And Spock doesn’t have any doubts. Jim has many qualities that humans admire in one another. Qualities that would even garner respect from non-humans. From Vulcans.
Spock speaks the words as he speaks all his words. Because he thinks they deserve to be heard. And even though Jim is heading towards the exit, shoulders squared like he’s already willing his soft-spoken question into a soon forgotten memory, Spock has little doubt his answer is being heard. Spock finds his own words throw back into his face by Jim in the most inopportune of moments.
“So,” Jim says, caught in the doorway like a frozen storm, “you comin’?”
Within hours of first meeting him Spock had discovered that in Jim’s world there were clear sides. His mother, verbally abusive stepfather, and other figures of authority on one side. And Jim, fierce and alone, abandoned by his older brother, on the other. But since the start Spock had recognized the falsehood of this lone wolf narrative Jim had spun for himself. Their peers are drawn to Jim; they rally behind him in his school rebellions, captivated by his charisma, and cheer him on in his revolts. The day Jim realises the full scope of his magnetism would surely prove to be… interesting.
Also, there is Spock. Where Jim goes, Spock follows, despite his human mother’s reservation and his Vulcan father’s disapproval. Spock’s presence to curtail some of Jim’s most reckless impulses could only prove to be beneficial. It is the logical choice.
So Spock rises from the bed and smooths down the creases in his robes. “I shall accompany you.”
A siren starts to blare in the distance.
“You think that’s for us?”
They’d ventured deeper into the belly of Starfleet’s future flagship than Spock had anticipated beforehand. Jim had been prepared, as Spock had known he would be, circumventing the security with his mother’s cloned Starfleet credentials. The Vulcan technology Spock had gifted Jim in the past played a key role in this deception and forced Spock to re-examine the tools deemed save to bestow upon Jim’s moral creativity and technical aptitude.
Spock tilts his head to the left in consideration. “Our breaking and entering would seem the most likely explanation for setting off the alarms to a secured facility.”
“Yeah,” Jim agrees, seemingly in awe of the flashing red lights and ear-piercing shrill of the alarm bouncing off the walls in increasing urgency.
Then Jim does something so illogical it stuns. He laughs, deep and boisterous, shaking his frame with tremors as if his body can’t contain the wealth of mirth he’s feeling. A display of emotion so blatant it would be considered indecent back home. Unseen. Spock can feel heat rising to his cheeks.
“We should run,” Jim says when he catches his breath, his pupils blown wide in glee.
“It would be futile. The activated security measures would take too long for us to circumvent. The chance of achieving a successful escape is negligible.”
Another pearl of laughter rips from Jim’s throat. The sound tugging at a counterpart hidden somewhere deep inside that Spock keeps carefully locked behind years of rigid mental training.
“They’ll never take us alive.”
A nonsensical statement as Starfleet would never use deadly force on two adolescent children but Spock knows Jim is alluding to something else he can’t grasp the meaning of yet. Jim’s mother tongue is full of allegories and again Spock curses the language’s lack of precision and layered meanings. But Spock is yet to find a puzzle he can’t solve if he fully applies himself and he doesn’t see how a single teenage human boy could be any different.
Then Jim runs, a flash of gold down a corridor.
And Spock runs after.