Title: You'll Get There in the End (It Just Takes a While)
Fandom: Star Trek Reboot
Codes: Kirk/Spock, various
Summary: "Spock. Just say 'I don't trust Starfleet not to mess up the only captain in the fleet who I can train up to my expectations and enjoys running into danger wearing a blindfold as much as I do'."
Author Notes: Thanks to svmadelyn, who pre-read, beta'ed, and maybe browbeat but just a little, shinetheway, drlense, and grammarwoman, who beta'ed and encouraged, and transtempts and winterlive for reading in progress and getting confused when I forgot where I'd left it the night before. After all of that, all mistakes are seriously mine, and extremely determined ones at that.
I just realized I have a playlist entirely devoted to songs about rain. No, there is no rain in this story. I just noticed is all.
It takes three point two-six hours to complete preparations for leaving the Enterprise; a direct beam down to Earth wouldn't usually be permitted, but Dr. McCoy's medical override was enough to push the authorization through with fewer complications than Spock could have accomplished easily on his own.
"Good luck," McCoy says, hip pressed against the console, arms crossed with exaggerated calm, mouth tight. "You'll need it."
Spock ignores him, nodding at Nyota's encouraging smile from the transporter controls, and listens for the hum that signals the beginnings of dematerialization.
The appearance of a farmhouse perched on endless swells of summer-burned land should not be as startling as it is; adjusting his Starfleet-issue pack, Spock double checks the coordinates from habit, then approaches the sagging porch, looking in vain for the normal controls to announce a visitor, then finally knocking firmly on the peeling paint of the door.
It is unlikely that he has come to the wrong house; Spock pauses before trying again. Despite the quiet of the countryside, there's no sound but the whisper of wind against the structures of the farm, the fainter sounds of nocturnal animals creeping out as dusk darkens the sky. Glancing at the tricorder, Spock watches the single lifesign remain immobile for another minute, then begins to knock again.
"Coming! Jesus, can't a guy get some sleep?"
The lifesign moves, starting toward what are presumably stairs to reach the first level of the house, and Spock watches the readings begin to fluctuate almost immediately as the effects of a troubled sleep wear away. Jagged spikes of adrenaline follow sudden plateaus of endorphins, edging farther into the yellow spectrum that far exceeded the human baseline. Farther, in fact, than even McCoy's most recent scans had projected.
The door opens abruptly, and Spock splits his observation between the Captain's face and the tricorder; the adrenaline spikes upward, entering red and staying there, matching the startled catch of breath and abrupt rise in heart rate. He hadn't been expected, but it's not merely surprise.
"Captain," Spock says.
"It's like a pizza delivery," the Captain says slowly, leaning a shoulder heavily against the doorway. "Except you're holding a tricorder and I didn't order pizza."
Spock ignores him, finishing his readings before putting the tricorder away. "I believe this is where I should say, 'aren't you going to invite me in?'"
The Captain's eyes narrow. "No. This is where I tell you to go to hell. Then you explain the laws of thermodynamics until I tell you to shut up, and you get your way anyway. So really, why bother?" Turning away, he retreats back into the house, running an absent hand through his hair. "Mi casa, su casa, whatever, I'm going back to bed."
Spock closes the door behind him, unsurprised by the blinds that cover every window, curtains drawn against the afternoon sun. Following the open plan of the house, Spock finds the Captain seated on the stairs, knees pulled up against his chest, bare feet dangling over the edge of a step.
"When did you last eat, sir?"
The Captain tilts his head up, staring blankly at Spock as if he'd forgotten he was there. "No. You come to my house--and not invited, in fact, specifically forbidden, more than once--you drop the captain shit."
Spock inclines his head. "When is the last time you ate, Jim?'
Jim clenches his teeth; it's not an unusual reaction, but Spock has not--quite--grown tired of eliciting it. "Before I left the ship."
"Two point seven days ago, then." Spock gestures toward the kitchen. "Alcohol is not an acceptable substitute for adequate nutrition--"
"I will prepare you something." In general, with James Kirk, it is easier to simply do and return later for explanation. Going back into the kitchen, Spock reaches for the lights.
Spock hesitates as Jim leans into the doorway. Even in the dim light, the strain is clearly visible beneath the carefully controlled expression, the weight loss startling considering the relatively short amount of time it has been since Spock last saw him, hours before he beamed down to Earth for shore leave and cut off communication.
"I wasn't aware that light sensitivity was a symptom," he says mildly. He doesn't need light to see clearly in any case. The loose hang of the sweatpants and pallor are perfectly visible.
"It's a surprise a day around here," Jim says bitterly. "What are you making?"
Spock reads the menu in the replicator, dissatisfied with the choices. Opening the control panel, Spock adds in three simple subroutines that will suffice until he has the leisure to work on a greater variety. "Do you have a preference?"
Jim shrugs, one shouldered, then pushes off the doorway to pull out a chair, turning it backward and straddling it, hands closing with deceptive casualness over the metal crossbars on the back. "I'm easy. I'm not hungry."
"That is irrelevant."
Spock picks up the still-full bottles and drops them in the recycler, ignoring Jim's groan of "You know how hard it is to make a replicator give you anything but synthehol?" before returning to the replicator and punching in his code, locking it. Jim could doubtless find a way around that, but Spock has no intention of giving him the time to do so.
Jim is still staring at the recycler in betrayal when Spock brings him soup, which Nyota had assured him was both nutritious and of low enough temperature not to cause undue damage if Jim threw it at him.
Jim seems to debate the issue for a few minutes, then picks up the spoon rebelliously. "You're going to stand there and stare unless I eat, aren't you?"
Spock inclines his head; it would not be the first time.
"And you'll leave?" He does not sound convinced, but Spock sees no need to dispel any illusions that will make this meal easier. While Jim works his way through the bowl, Spock takes out the tricorder, studying the readings. Better, but only in a relative sense. "By the way: this is creepy."
"If you cannot function as an adult and see to your own health, it behooves--"
"Did you use the word 'behooves'? Really?"
"--someone else to do so until you are rational again." Spock considers. "Or at least returned to your general level of irrationality."
Jim shoots him a scowl, but the bowl is empty, which was the goal of this particular exercise. Tossing the spool into the bowl, Jim sits back, arms crossed. "Happy?"
Spock doesn't bother answering, investigating the cooling unit, unsurprised to see there is little food currently in storage but a great many bottles. It's not unexpected, but more worrisome is how many may have already been consumed.
Jim doesn't argue as he recycles them all, arms draped over the back of the chair, focusing so abruptly that Spock can feel it like a physical touch. Aware he's being tracked, he slows his movements accordingly, opening the replicator log and sending it to the tricorder for later analysis. It may give him a better indication of how far Jim has come than tricorder readings that were never meant to be found in a purely human body.
"I can't sleep without those, you know," Jim says quietly. "The sedatives Bones gave me are pretty ineffective and they were some of the strongest he had. Unless, and I quote, I'm after an old-fashioned coma. Kinda kinky, but not my thing."
Spock turns to face him, the edge of the counter pressed against his back. "Ethanol is no longer adequate or you would not have continued to consume it in these quantities." Though Spock admits, he hadn't considered the efficacy of Romulan Ale in his calculations, perhaps because even James Kirk shouldn't be able to coax a replicator into producing a banned substance. "Your next logical step would to be indulging in various untested pharmaceuticals. I do not think it wise to allow that step to be taken."
Jim rolls his eyes. "Better check the bathroom before you go," he says, now sounding tired. "Security on replicators these days is a joke."
Spock glances at the stairs. "I assume Dr. McCoy gave you--"
"Almost done with the stuff that's actually been approved for use on humans. I'm a great research subject, though, so science is getting something out of it." Kirk rests his head on his crossed arms. "You need to leave," he says abruptly. "Really soon now."
"I do not think that is wise."
Jim's mouth tightens. "That wasn't a suggestion."
Taking out a datapad, Spock crosses the room, sliding it across the table. "As you can see, I anticipated your--recalcitrance. It is not yet filed, but Dr. McCoy has agreed to do so should it become necessary."
"Don't you think declaring me unfit for command is a little extreme?" Jim pushes forward in his chair, picking up the datapad and reading it in a glance. When he looks up, however, he doesn't seem surprised. "Huh. I was actually joking. So it's this or Starfleet Medical, huh? Your people wouldn't like that at all."
"There is a time," Spock says slowly, taking the chair across from Jim, "for discretion. And then there is a time for the necessary."
Jim drops the datapad.
"This is the necessary."
Jim nods grimly before closing his eyes and taking a careful breath. "If you touch me," Jim says slowly, "I will kill you. Or you will have to kill me. Do we understand each other?"
Spock nods. "As you would say: crystal."
Nyota had only left an hour earlier; it wouldn't do for her to be seen leaving his quarters in the early morning, and in any case, her presence tended to preclude sleep. So it was something of a surprise when the door indicated someone wanted admittance.
It's much more a surprise that it's Captain--Cadet Kirk. "Commander?" Kirk says, looking surprisingly awake for someone who had not yet left the bar when Spock and Nyota had retired for the night.
"Can I help you?"
The smile dims, just on the edges. "I'd like to speak to you about our assignments."
Spock almost sighs. Of course. "I have no control over your assignment, Mr. Kirk," he starts, but Kirk, typically, cuts him off.
"But your request would have a lot of weight." Apparently taking Spock's blank look as an invitation, he comes inside, radiating barely leashed energy. "When you have your ship, I'd like to be considered for the position of first officer."
Spock blinks. "On my ship."
Kirk nods quickly, nearly bouncing despite being at formal attention; how he gives that impression Spock isn't entirely sure. "Yes. I'd like to submit my application for consideration." He pauses, body stilling. "Despite our differences, I think we work well together."
Humans, Spock reflects, have surprisingly odd definitions of the meaning of 'well'. "Mr. Kirk--"
"Right, we had some--difficulty at the beginning," Kirk says, dismissing three quarters of their acquaintance with a wave of his hand. "But I think that when we were finally on the same page, our strengths complemented each other."
"When we were doing what you desired, yes, you were very easy to work with," Spock says, recognizing by the intonation that apparently, this is a speech that Kirk's practiced and having no desire to hear it. "But in any case, Mr. Kirk, I must decline, interesting as the remote possibility might have been."
Something changes, invisible, unquantifiable, and surprising; the leashed energy vanishes, and Kirk's expression melts into unreadability. "Can I ask why, sir?"
"I do not feel I need to justify myself," Spock says stiffly, and somehow, Kirk gives the impression he no longer possesses joints. "If that is all--"
Yes, sir, it is." Kirk's salute is regulation perfect. "Thank you for your time."
After he's gone, Spock considers meditation, but the impromptu discussion won't quite settle, and Spock studies it as he goes about his morning, wondering what had caused the abrupt shift in Kirk's mood. Humans were generally inexplicable, but Kirk seemed to be attempting a newer level of irrational. Not a surprise, particularly, but distracting when there were far more important things to consider, not least of which being where his people will settle and arranging his own resignation and transport.
He sees Kirk twice more before his oral finals, which Spock is perfectly aware have been considerably altered from that a normal cadet would face. Being one of the only two people ever to have James Kirk under his direct command, Spock's required to attend, watching as Kirk stands before Starfleet's most elite officers with the same brittle calm he'd shown during his hearing for academic dishonesty.
He knows the second Kirk sees him, watching the body language stutter and change, the brittle edges hardening, before the blue eyes fix on the plethora of admirals and captains again.
When the questioning begins, Spock finds himself thinking that Starfleet and the Vulcan Science Academy might have more in common among their upper echelons than he'd previously suspected.
Kirk stops short, shoulders set defensively, which likely will result in uncomfortable cramping unless Kirk seeks assistance. "Commander."
Spock fights the urge to quicken his pace; Kirk seems on the edge of flight at the slightest excuse, and after the last eight hours, Spock can't entirely fault him. "I wish to extend my congratulations on your performance," Spock says; most species tended to require affirmation after difficult tasks, and logically, it seemed appropriate that he offer them. With Captain Pike still restricted to the medical bay and the loss of Kirk's advisor, there would be no one else to assume the position.
Kirk gives him a sideways look, thick with suspicion. "It was a disaster."
It could have been far worse; Spock has fairly vivid memories of an uncomfortable Tellarite and the sudden malfunction of the environmental controls. "It was adequate."
"I'll take that as agreement and wonder if they'll let me pilot a garbage scow after this," Kirk answers tightly. "If you'll excuse me--"
"You are displeased."
Kirk stops, staring at him. "It's like you read my mind and weren't there for the entire eight hours," Kirk says sharply. "Or did you miss the--"
"What the hell was that about?" Kirk says, the tightness vanishing beneath a flow of raw anger. Startled, Spock watches him turn abruptly, pacing three steps away before turning on him. "I know I passed every damn final, and I have the credit hours. They never take that long unless they--"
"It was of unusual length," Spock admits, but Kirk apparently has lost his ability to process information that isn't coming from his own mouth.
"--looking for a way to get rid of me!"
Spock hesitates. "That is not correct."
Kirk ignores him. "I'm frankly surprised I wasn't cashiered on the spot--"
"That would be impolitic, even if it had been a consideration. Which it was not. If you would restrain your unfounded speculation, I can provide you with an explanation."
Kirk stops short. "What does that even mean?"
Spock looks around the quiet grounds; though there are few people in evidence, Kirk is a draw for attention even when he is not engaging in dramatic renditions in the middle of the courtyard.
"This is not the appropriate location for this discussion," Spock says finally. "If you would come with me--"
"For the pleasure of telling me yourself that they're throwing me out onto a garbage scow? Gee, what could compete with that?"
"Starfleet has no garbage scow. Public sanitation is handled by the city."
Kirk rolls his eyes, but the hot flush of anger recedes somewhat, which Spock supposes could be considered progress. "It's like talking to a computer." Kirk shakes his head. "Fine. Just--let's get it over with."
Spock indicates the way to his quarters, which Kirk reluctantly agrees to with a sharp nod. Locking the door, Spock engages the privacy override; he has students who have an unfortunate tendency to forget to inform him they require his presence until they are already well inside the door.
Kirk plants himself in roughly the same position he'd been in the last time he had been here, with a startling similarity of attitude. "Your oral exam was also your officer test," Spock says finally. "If they decide in your favor, you will be required to spend the summer at Starfleet to complete your command training."
"For garbage scow--"
"Mr. Kirk," Spock starts, but Kirk's mouth is curled up in a slight smile. "I see. You are using humor to dissipate your nervousness."
"It also works in death-defying situations and hideously uncomfortable post-coital discussion," Kirk says, relaxing. "Please continue, Commander."
"Your field promotion is being altered to permanent, with the intention of giving you the Enterprise when your command training is complete."
Kirk's expression blanks. "I thought Vulcans didn't joke."
"We do not."
Kirk doesn't move. "That--then why--"
"Normally, your advisor would be required to inform you of your change in status," Spock says. "Or your commanding officer. As your advisor was lost on the Farragut and Captain Pike is currently still under medical supervision--"
"--you were told to do it as the only other person who had me under their command. Do they not like you much or something?"
Spock averts his eyes; awkwardness is not logical. "I am certain if Starfleet had considered your situation in full, they would have assigned me to do so."
"Oh." Kirk licks his lips, looking away. "Not that I think you're lying--I mean, we're over the cheating and mutiny and abandonment and everything--but really, bullshit. They wouldn't--"
"Normally, no." Spock studies the least normal human being he's ever met. "However, having saved Earth from Nero--"
"That wasn't just me, Spock."
"Granted, Mr. Kirk. If I may continue? Captain Pike also made his intentions very clear who he wishes to succeed him, and as you are well aware, nepotism plays no small part in Starfleet's decisions. Finally, Starfleet cannot afford to--how would you say--pick and choose, due to the paucity of officers available for starship duty." Kirk looks at him incredulously. "Not everyone who graduates from Starfleet wants to command a starship, Mr. Kirk. Especially one whose mission is exploration in unknown space. The loss of your class did not improve the situation that Starfleet finds it in; the number of positions greatly exceeds the number of officers available."
"There's you." The blue eyes narrow abruptly. "Are they holding what happened on the Enterprise against you? There were extenuating circumstances--"
Spock shakes his head; possibly Kirk is the only person who would dismiss attempted murder on the bridge of a starship as a product of 'extenuating circumstances'. "My resignation would make that difficult, Mr. Kirk. I have no intention of remaining in Starfleet after the training for the new officers of the Enterprise is complete."
Kirk's expression changes abruptly. "That's why you refused me when I asked? Before?"
"Of course." Spock considers for a moment. "I admit, your request was--intriguing."
"Oh." Kirk hesitates. "I'm sorry that you're leaving. I was looking forward to working with you again."
Anyone else, Spock supposes, would find that statement rather humorous.
"Really." Kirk relaxes from his formal stance. "Not many people would have the nerve to throw me off the ship and onto a fairly inhospitable replication of Hoth, down to the wildlife"
Spock stiffens. "Mr. Kirk--"
"Hey, I would have done the same thing." Kirk grins suddenly. "You know. If I'd read my record and knew the brig wouldn't be much of a challenge. Which you had." The smile fades. "I hope you'll change your mind, sir."
Spock inclines his head.
"I'd better--" Kirk waves absently at the door. "Oh, for the record, because this part's not on my record; I did survival training in Antarctica my first summer. Next time you want to get rid of me, it probably shouldn't be on anything M class."
Spock looks at him. "I doubt the particular circumstance will occur again, Mr. Kirk."
Kirk rolls his eyes as the door opens, flashing a grin. "I kind of hope not. Next time, maybe we'll just listen to each other first and skip the exile part. Thank you, Commander. I'll be seeing you around."
The door closes before Spock can form a suitable answer.
In retrospect, Spock should have predicted what would happen next.
"Okay, hear me out on this one."
Spock thinks the mistake might have been in permitting their acquaintanceship to extend beyond the required command classes, but he can't quite find it entirely regrettable, despite Captain Kirk's persistence. "Captain--"
"Drop it." Spinning on a heel, Kirk comes to a regulation-perfect stop halfway into Spock's office. "Commander. Spock. Commander? Yeah, not getting used to this anytime soon. Can we drop formalities? Since I haven't even been really commissioned yet?"
Spock doesn't sigh, letting the door closed. "Very well, Mr. Kirk."
Spock's never had these kind of problems with students before. Then again, Kirk is many things, but a student is possibly the least important of them. "Jim."
Kirk rocks back on his heels, pleased with the concession. "Still resigning?"
"As I have told you every time you have inquired for the last three weeks, daily, I am--"
"Still considering your options, I know." Leaning back against the desk, Kirk gives him a blinding smile. "I've been thinking--"
For some reason (for every reason) that statement brings Spock up short. Studying Kirk with narrowed eyes, he considers the bright energy currently inhabiting his office, fresh from outdoors, and wonders why someone, somewhere, hadn't considered the consequences of a summer in San Francisco with nothing but a few classes a day and a lack of variety in subjects or companions. The other members of the Enterprise crew were all in similar training, preparing them for the launch of the repaired Enterprise, but that was a relatively small group, though Spock had noted that Kirk had made a point of engaging in weekly social engagements with as many of them as possible, most especially his future bridge staff.
A bar, in Spock's considered opinion, is not the most appropriate location to encourage crew unity, but Kirk's methods were unlike that of most of the captains of Spock's acquaintance. His youth may have something to do with that, but Spock is beginning to understand why Captain Pike had said James T. Kirk wasn't going to be like any other officer in memory.
Spock will admit to himself if not to Kirk that there are worse captains in Starfleet who are both far older and far more experienced. As far as Spock can ascertain, Kirk has been careful to avoid romantic or social entanglements with anyone over whom he will have direct command, which is a distinct improvement over three captains (and a certain admiral) of Spock's acquaintance.
(Or as Nyota had told him one night: "He still hits on me, but he mostly doesn't mean it. Though it would be funny to see how he'd react if I took him up on it.")
Kirk wants this ship, and for more than the prestige of the position, and without interest in personal gain. It's rare enough that despite himself, Spock finds himself curious what kind of captain he will be in a year's time, in five years, how time and experience will change him.
"--and it's not like you'd enjoy--I'm sorry, would find anything intellectually stimulating about border runs," Kirk says. Spock turns his full attention back to Kirk, watching the long fingers open and close restlessly on the edge of his desk. "And you don't even like teaching."
Spock blinks; the observation is surprisingly acute. "I do not--"
"You like studying and experimenting and you love discovering stuff no one else has, but seriously. You like exactly two of your Xenolinguistics students, and one of them you're--" Kirk trails off with a grin. "Very friendly with. This isn't what you were meant to do. Come on. What's the worst that could happen?"
Spock starts to answer, then checks himself. "I assume you don't want a literal examination of the potential for--"
"Nah. Think positive. Come on, even Ambassador Spock thought it was a good idea--and by the way, thanks for not telling me the world wouldn't end if you knew about him."
"As I remember," Spock answers, wondering when the Ambassador had found time to inform Jim of their conversation, "he was the one that implied the possibility existed."
"Yet you still didn't tell me you'd met him." Jim looks satisfied; he often does when he thinks he has made an irrefutable argument.
"I do not make a habit of reporting all my daily interactions."
Crossing the room, Spock takes his seat at the desk, hoping to encourage Kirk to move to a chair, but Kirk just swivels around, pushing papers (neatly, at least) out of the way of the knee he hooks over the edge, looking perfectly content to sit there all day.
"You've denied three applications for the position of First Officer," Spock observes. Kirk nods agreement. "All of those who applied are officers with both experience and training far in excess of yours--or mine, for that matter."
"Yeah, that's the thing. I don't want to do this like anyone else. I want to do this like we'd do it." Kirk settles himself for what appears to be a long discussion. "I need someone with experience in the 'great and perilous adventure that is space'," Spock watches Kirk's finger quotes and wonders who was unfortunate enough to try to talk seriously to him, "and you need someone who will actually argue with you without hiding under the desk and hyperventilating."
"I have never perceived behavior--"
"Oh please. You're just used to it. Because seriously, if you've never noticed people flinching when you start looking Vulcan-y--"
"Vulcany. That 'my superiority is so great that I cannot bother myself to show you how very wrong you are, unworthy human creature'." Spock suspects the toneless inflection is supposed to be mimicry of himself. "Yes! That one. Look in a mirror. That's the one that makes everyone try to find new and unexciting places to be that aren't near you." Jim frowns. "I mean, I like it, but you know, people." He waves a hand toward the door, apparently indicating either Starfleet or perhaps, the quadrant; there is no way to be certain. "And I'm great with you terrorizing my crew. It's funny."
Spock honestly can't formulate a response to that.
"Look, just think about it, at least so Pike stops looking like he wonders how good the drugs were when he recommended I get the Enterprise. Which I have under excellent authority were very, very good." Sliding off the desk, Kirk gives a sloppy salute. "I gotta date with a Gorn and at least two hypos for the bruising after he's done wiping the floor with me. I'll see you tomorrow, Commander."
Spock watches Kirk leave, a whirlwind of energy that makes the office seem smaller and darker in his absence; a comparative experience that Spock is well aware is the result of subjective perception, but no less true for being so. After a few minutes, he gives up trying to finish evaluations, sending a message to Admiral Pike's office to request a meeting.
The reply is almost immediate; Spock suspects that he is not the only one who has been granted the focused, unending attention of the youngest captain in Starfleet history.
"Mr. Spock." Admiral Pike grins, gesturing him toward a chair. Spock finds himself studying the remarkably clear edge of the desk, despite the clutter than tends to accumulate everywhere else, and thinks that Mr. Kirk must have already paid his daily visit. "Jimmy been at you again?"
Spock settles uncomfortably on the chair. "He has been very--persistent."
"We're up to five outright refusals," the Admiral says, looking at his console with a considering expression. "He rejected the last two as soon as he got the applications an hour ago. Didn't even read them. The admiralty isn't happy."
"The emotional state of the admiralty tends to be in a constant state of flux where Captain Kirk is concerned, sir," Spock observes.
The Admiral grins. "You're developing a sense of humor."
"I ask that you do not insult me, Admiral." Spock tilts his head as the Admiral's grin widens. "I screened the last two applications personally for both experience and compatibility. He is being deliberately difficult."
"He's digging in his heels all right," the Admiral agrees. "Under the circumstances, and considering he's avoided trying to trade on his current status for any favors, Starfleet is not willing to push the issue. For now. He's suiciding his decision; it's going to be you or it's going to be a direct appointment, and I think we can both guess what kind of person they'll saddle him with if they have the chance. And exactly how long they'll last."
Spock's projections do not show a satisfactory conclusion to anyone that the Admiralty might think would be appropriate to serve as Captain Kirk's first officer. "I see."
"I know this wouldn't be your ideal situation--"
"I wish to accept Captain Kirk's offer, sir."
The Admiral lifts his head; Spock can't remember any other time in their acquaintance that Admiral Pike has ever looked so shocked. "Really."
"Vulcans do not joke, Admiral."
"Right." Picking up a paper, the Admiral puts it down again without any indication he has any awareness of what he is doing. "Spock, I'm aware that Starfleet has put a great deal of pressure on you to accept the position, considering your history with him." The Admiral hesitates. "For their own reasons."
"They have made it clear that they expect me to exert a restraining influence on Captain Kirk." Some were less circumspect in their expectations, a situation that Spock felt uniquely qualified to state that, had he been human, he would have found both distasteful and offensive by turn. It was the sort of thing, however, that he suspects Captain Kirk would find amusing.
Typically, Admiral Pike is more blunt. "Fix him or find a reason for them to dump him from Fleet, yes."
"Starfleet's opinions and motives have no bearing on my decision."
The Admiral studies him. "He can charm anyone into just about anything," he says slowly. "But that kind of thing wouldn't work on you, either. Does he know?"
"Hmm." Sitting back, the Admiral picks up a stylus, shifting it restlessly between his fingers. "You want me to block further applications?"
"I would appreciate your efforts to redirect further candidates, sir."
The Admiral nods thoughtfully. "And you have reasons of your own for not telling him and putting us both out of his misery. Which you aren't going to share."
"Your acquaintance with Captain Kirk is of longer duration than my own, but I think I can state with some certainty that I've come to understand--somewhat--how his mind works. It will be to all our benefit if the Captain--continues to consider this a challenge to his ingenuity."
"He's used to working for what he wants; that's how he knows it's worth the effort. And you like to watch." The Admiral's mouth trembles on a smile. "You were my first choice, just like he was my first choice for you when you were under consideration for the Enterprise. But I'd like to hear your reasons."
"Are they required, sir?"
The Admiral settles comfortably in his chair. "Did you know that he's managed to be here for lunch every day this week? I assume if I had a daughter with a crush, the conversations would be a lot like those lunches. So indulge me, Commander. I think I'm owed."
Spock considers the definition of 'crush' and compares it to Captain Kirk's behavior. It isn't entirely inaccurate. "It would be a challenge to work with him, sir."
"Spock, you don't do anything unless it's a challenge. You make your own challenges when Starfleet can't accommodate you. Give me something better than that."
Spock hesitates. "It would be accurate to say that we would both be the richer for the experience. Our strengths are complementary and--"
"Blah blah blah. You've been recruited by ten different captains in the three years you've been here and turned them down flat, and none of them have the history you and Jimmy already managed to accumulate. Do better."
"You have stated you do not have any objections--"
"I don't. In fact, if it came down to the wire, I'd freeze the position and let him go without than risk the clusterfuck that the Admiralty would initiate to keep him in check, then wait you both out. Lieutenant Uhura is senior enough to de facto the position for the time being, and she's perfectly capable of keeping him from tossing himself at the nearest no-win just to prove he can win it. But I don't think you're in this to save Kirk from himself."
Spock considers his response; despite the carefully considered, rational reasons that made this a logical choice, there's a very real core that Spock is aware lacks logic altogether.
"You once said that Starfleet officers had become too predictable in their responses," Spock answers. "And that our greatest weakness was that we had become immured in our own fears of the unknown after the events of the Kelvin, permitting routine to replace innovation and conformity to be the most important trait of a Starfleet officer. While Captain Kirk has yet to learn many of the traits of a successful officer or captain, time and experience will correct those flaws; he has shown exemplary--"
Admiral Pike blinks. "Spock. Just say 'I don't trust Starfleet not to mess up the only captain in the fleet who I can train up to my expectations and enjoys running into danger wearing a blindfold as much as I do'."
Spock stiffens. "Sir?"
"Spock," the Admiral says, voice softening, "I was your advisor, I handpicked your early assignments, I know why you teach at the Academy, and I know why you insisted on a disciplinary hearing when he cheated on the Kobayashi Maru. See, I don't really need you to tell me why you're doing this; that part I get. What I don't know is what changed your mind."
"I do not see how it is relevant--"
"Yeah, you do, and I'll drop it, but I'm going to bet now he won't, and one day, he's going to ask." Before Spock can answer, he shakes his head. "Your assignment is approved; I'll backdoor it up the chain of command so he doesn't get wind of it."
Spock rises to his feet, feeling oddly unsettled. "Thank you, Admiral. I appreciate your discretion."
Admiral Pike shrugs. "I'm luckily being sent to Tokyo for a consultation, so you'll be the only one left for Jim to bother during his free time for the next couple of weeks."
Spock lets silence suffice as an answer.
The Admiral snickers. "Have it your own way, Mr. Spock. I, for one, look forward to seeing what shape you and young Captain Kirk plan to leave the galaxy in when you're done. Dismissed."
Jim doesn’t sleep at all that night; even the light doze leaves his mind undefended. even a psi-null could sense the uncomfortable tangle that was both emotion and physiology combining in ways a human body was never meant to function. Spock gave up meditation after two hours, awareness of Jim a thin wall away almost as powerful as Jim's awareness of him.
An hour later, the door opens, and Jim looks at him in unconcealed exhaustion. "Fix the replicator or shoot me, or I'm going to snap and I'm taking you with me."
Spock uncoils himself from the floor. "I can--"
"I told you--"
"To help you sleep."
Jim's mouth tightens, blue eyes electric in the dim light. After a few seconds of hesitation, he comes in the room, kicking the door closed before sitting down on the edge of the still-made bed. "You haven't slept either."
"I was aware of the consequences of--"
"Right, of course you were. You hacked my medical records." Swiveling, Kirk lies back, blinking up at the ceiling. "Will it--do anything to you?"
Spock considers the question, carefully forming his reply. "The situation is unprecedented, but I do not think it can affect me against my will."
"Because if it's both of us--"
Sitting on the edge of the bed, Spock feels Jim tense. "Close your eyes."
After a second, Jim does, though the tension in his body doesn't change, tightening at the first touch against his face. "My mind to your mind."
With a sigh, Jim turns his head, eyes slitting open dazedly as he relaxes all at once. "Spock," he breathes, and Spock fights the urge to lean closer; this isn't for him. "There was this girl--"
He does not know.
"My thoughts to your thoughts," Spock whispers, controlling the rush of memory and feeling at the first touch. Kirk's mind opens so easily, welcoming, hopeful, afraid, with anger running beneath like a river on the verge of overflowing its banks, a flash flood that rolls through him.
I will do what I must, T'Pau, but not with him.
"There's always a girl, with us," Kirk whispers dreamily. "It was easier than admitting what we both already knew."
Spock fights the tremble, but he can't fight the way Kirk turns toward him, open, eager, willing, here if nowhere else. Threading through each memory, Spock sets it aside T'Pring, easing heat and hatred, the feel of sun-scorched sand and bare, unforgiving rock, and a friendship that had defined them while they defined what the Federation would become.
His blood does not burn. He is my friend.
"I faced you on the sands of Gol, but I would have faced her."
I shall do neither.
"I would have fought her for you and made my claim there and then. I would have killed her. Instead--"
I have killed my captain and my friend.
"Spock," Jim breathes, hand sliding through Spock's filled with a grief that consumed logic and reason both, a startling joy that blotted out the world. "I've missed you so goddamn much…."
"Sleep," Spock whispers, and Jim's eyes close.
"…crazy." Kirk sighs, letting himself be pulled downward, too slowly, his body fighting even if his mind did not. "You drive me crazy. I know it's not real," on a sigh. "But it feels real."
Spock waits until Kirk is quiet, a boneless sprawl of pure exhaustion. Two hours, maybe three, before he wakens again. It won't get better, Spock knows; what they don't know is how quickly worse will come.
Moving away from the bed, Spock the feels the tiny thread of awareness he built between them strengthen, enough for now to warn him when Jim awakens, and decides now would be an acceptable time to adjust the replicator.
They are three months into their commission when Captain Kirk finally decides the status quo is no longer acceptable.
In many ways, Captain Kirk can be predictable, but in others, he is not. In retrospect, however, Spock thinks he should have predicted that it would be a staff meeting where the Captain would decide to air his grievances. It would be his best audience.
"Right," the Captain says abruptly, putting down his coffee cup halfway through Lieutenant Sulu's report, startling everyone into silence. "Do you need me here for this? I mean, other than the nodding. Spock's ship's champion at it, so I'd hate to compete with my First Officer."
Nyota looks up from her datapad with a frown; two chairs to her left, Dr. McCoy straightens with an alarmed look that Spock interprets as belated dread. Setting down the requisition logs, Spock folds his hands and waits for the Captain to continue; there is nothing, he thinks, illogical about curiosity in how Captain Kirk will approach the problem Spock had recognized within two weeks of their departure from Earth.
"Captain?" Lieutenant Sulu says warily.
"Just--" Captain Kirk puts his datapad down and stands up. "I'm going back to bed. If the Romulans attack, call me to kill them. You know, when there's something to do."
Picking up his coffee and datapad, he leaves his crew to re-evaluate their opinion of his relative sanity. Spock observes the bewildered, outraged, and worried expressions of the bridge crew and department heads before rising to his feet. "Lieutenant Uhura," he says, "please continue in my and the Captain's absence."
"Yes, sir," she says, rising to take the Captain's chair without hesitation. Following Captain Kirk's exit, Spock emerges into the short hall that connects the myriad rooms that comprise the captain's public and private quarters.
Stopping at the door to the Captain's quarters, he waits as the computer announces him, then proceeds to ignore the shouted, "Oh fuck yourself, Spock, I'm sulking," and enters the brightly-lit room.
"Captain," he begins, as Captain Kirk stares intently at the small hand-held device that Spock identifies as an Andorian game console, an indulgence of far too many students to their scholastic misfortune. The bed is unmade, and from the state of the floor, it seems the Captain has indulged in a display of temper. "May I ask--"
"Yes, I was very unprofessional, but that's not new, and I know the lecture, so spare me." After a few seconds of intense playing, the Captain continues. "You know, I did the command track thing," he says, not looking up from the holographic display of what appears to be tiny ships being decimated by a large round sphere. "Learned about command and leadership and also, there was a class in paperwork. Which in retrospect was pretty useful, because otherwise, I never would have known there were three types of pollen to avoid if I want to escape embarrassing outdoor sex with people I'm not really attracted to."
Spock has made a concerted effort not to think of the mission where that knowledge had been tested.
"I learned about the different departments, what they do, what they don't, their structure, their hierarchy," Captain Kirk continues venomously. "I learned strategy and tactics and how to use and break any weapon in the Federation database. I learned warp engine theory and applied engineering, the four major Federation languages, and six more just because they were after two pm and I like afternoon classes."
Spock nods; he's learned over time humans appreciate a visible sign of attention.
"I'm certified to pilot up to a Constellation class starship and any Federation shuttle in the catalogue, a warbird of Romulan or Klingon manufacture, and I can cheat in any type of poker, including Andorian Stand Up, and that's not easy when a third of the game is telepathic. But--and this is weird, so just go with me here--no one ever got around to telling me what the fuck I'm supposed to do when I'm not either saving the galaxy or blowing up anything in sight."
The sphere abruptly explodes, and Jim gives it a narrow look. "And I just beat my last video game. Spock, how do you feel about war with the Romulans? Because if I don't get something to do, I'm gonna start one."
Spock considers the man who is both his Captain and a potential Federation terrorist, and makes an executive decision. "Permission to speak freely, Captain?"
Captain Kirk cranes his neck, staring at Spock. "Wow. So usually you're like, being polite or something? Okay, I gotta hear this. Hit me. And sit down, Commander. We'll pretend I have any authority here because it makes me feel better."
Spock considers their relative positions, then crosses to the small couch that Jim dragged from the more formal reception room and covered with a loudly-colored blanket of unknown manufacture that smells vaguely of what could be somewhat questionable herbs.
"You are dissatisfied with your current duties--"
"I don't have any duties." Abruptly, the Captain gets to his feet. "Spock, quick question--tell me my schedule. You made it. Tell me what I do every day."
"You take the alpha shift on the bridge five days a week," Spock recites. "Gamma for sixth day and against my objections, alpha and gamma for the seventh. You meet with each department once monthly, bridge staff weekly, and a full staff meeting bimonthly. Two hours daily are devoted to bureaucratic concerns and one for reading reports. You have scheduled briefings with each department head on an as-needed basis, though I have noticed that this has become a weekly occurrence and have explained--"
"That I make them nervous and it makes them cry or something. Now, read that list of things I can't do. Because you made that, too."
Spock shifts unnecessarily. "Captain--"
Dropping abruptly on the edge of the bed, Captain Kirk leans forward. "How about I tell you? Anything. Anything that is remotely concerned with the day to day maintenance of a ship I am nominally responsible for. Oh, it's not just you," Jim says with a wave toward the door that seems somehow threatening. "Uhura slapped my hands when she caught me at the comm board, and Scotty follows me around the entire time I'm in engineering like he thinks I’m going to make off with the warp core, and Sulu and Chekov always talk about their swords when I get too close to the helm, so you know, it's not just you trying to drive me insane. You're just the one that follows me around, just in case I run across something interesting to do so you can bring that to a halt."
"A Captain's duties--"
"Are titular and subject to the whims of his First Officer and entire goddamn crew? Because I think you are a liar and this state of perpetual boredom is why you turned down captaining a ship. Not every day is going to be rainbows and puppies and destroying the enemies of the Federation, I get that, but there's got to be a happy medium between red alert and homicidal boredom."
"Are you aware that your bridge officers have never before served as senior staff?" Spock says finally, waiting until he has Captain Kirk's full attention. "Nor have most of the department heads. Few have served as more than junior officers, and even fewer have done so beyond their cadet status. Some have never served on a starship in any capacity. They are understandably nervous when their Captain appears to be questioning their judgment."
"I have served as both junior and senior science officer before taking this position."
"And this is how this goes? You are telling me the entirety of my duties is to look positive and engaged while flying through dead space, pretend I like diplomacy, and listen to people tell me they have much more interesting jobs than I do? Spock, sanitation has become really fascinating recently. Do you know why? You haven't yet told me it's against regulations for me to go down there and see how everything works, and I told the department head I'd tell you he was hitting on Uhura if he said anything. So you know, thanks for being scary and all, but I'm not sure this is the kind of command structure we're looking for out here."
"You're better than me at pretty much everything. I get that." Jim leans back on both arms. "If you want it in writing, fine. You. Are. Good. At. Every. Fucking. Thing. But you shouldn't have to be, do you get what I'm saying? You can let me do some things. Like inspect engineering, or check out what those crazy pilots are doing these days, or hang out in maintenance so I can know the guys who keep the shuttles running and maybe on a really crazy day, I can, I don't know, learn how my own ship functions." Abruptly, Jim sighs. "They promoted me because they had to, when the normal course of my life would be serving on different ships and learning all these things for myself. It's not that I would have had a blast having to take orders from someone else--yes, that look again, why am I here when I could be at Starfleet, bored as hell, I get that a lot from you--but at least I'd be doing something."
"I'm not kidding about a war. I can falsify a communication and get a shuttle and there are five M-class planets in range, so I'll get back to the ship even if you throw me off again. So we've got to figure this out."
"Captain," Spock tries again, "I have never stated anything you wished to do was against regulation. When you asked, I replied it was not within my experience as a Starfleet officer."
The Captain stiffens, staring at him suspiciously. "But you said--" The Captain trails off, eyes widening . "Wait a second. Have you been--have you been testing me or something?"
Spock thinks of Admiral Pike; this conversation would appeal to his unusual sense of humor. "Captain, I--"
"You thought I'd get off on the joy of being captain and so all the hard stuff was going to be handled by the smart kids?"
"I did not mean to imply--"
"Yeah, you did, and I'm one of the smart kids. If I were serving on this ship in any other capacity, I'd be booby-trapping the captain's bathroom. I annoy myself that much." Throwing up his hands, the Captain shakes his head. "I didn't push it, because I have no idea what I'm doing here and screwing up how the ship runs just because I'm bored seems kind of overkill. But all this time, you were waiting for me to--what? Object? Break down and blow up something?"
Spock tilts his head. "You told me once you did not wish to do as others before you had done. I have been giving you the opportunity to decide what that will be while assuring that the ship continues to function adequately. If you wish for there to be change, then you will need to decide what form those changes will take and act accordingly."
"You are--" He stops, shaking his head with the beginnings of a smile. "How long did you think it would it take for me to realize what was going on?"
"I underestimated the time it would take," Spock admits. "I had expected it would require a full year before you felt confident enough in your command to take a more active role in ship operations."
"And you couldn't just say it straight out?" The smile fades, eyes sharpening. "That's not it, though, is it? Not all of it. Why this way and not just tell me?"
Spock raises an eyebrow. "I do not understand, Captain. Please elucidate."
"When I know, I certainly will, Mr. Spock." Sitting back, the Captain gives him an unreadable look. "All right. We're going to start from the beginning. I want a complete list of your duties and that of every single member of this crew, which you probably have memorized or something, so I know who is where and what they're doing. And we're back to disapproving. Custom or regulation?"
"Custom," Spock admits after a moment of thought. "Fraternization rules--"
"Are ignored everywhere or I wouldn't be here today. Or most of Starfleet, for that matter. There's a high correlation between long missions and birth rates, did you know that? Skip to--"
"By tradition, Captains do not fraternize with their crew--"
"Didn't I just say--"
"--because familiarity can lead to impaired judgment. There have been many reasons over the centuries for the sharp delineation between command and crew, but one has remained constant. The distance a Captain keeps from his crew is to avoid the possibility, if not probability, that the Captain's judgment will be compromised if he is required to send them into danger."
Captain Kirk stills, expression growing serious. "I want to know the people who serve on this ship, and they need to know me. Because you're right; I'm going to give orders that will put some of them in danger, and maybe get them killed. They deserve to know who the guy is that can do that."
"And you believe that you will be unaffected by--"
Captain Kirk shakes his head. "The day that I can send anyone to die on my order without it affecting me is the day I resign from Starfleet, because that's when I'm a danger to anyone under my command. It's not supposed to be easy. If it is, I don't have the right to wear this uniform."
Spock nods slow agreement. "As you wish."
"And you're--not going to argue." The Captain leans forward, looking suspicious. "Tell me I'm doing it wrong, or that--"
"My duties do not include being a tour guide for your career, Captain. I will offer my advice, as needed, or you may ask it. But the final decision is, and always will be, yours."
The expression on the Captain's face is not unlike that of a small child denied a desired sweet. "Yeah, and the 'I am not an oracle to tell your future, Jim, so please stop asking' thing. You and your counterpart? Much more alike than I thought when I met him."
Surprised, Spock doesn't answer; it hadn't occurred to him that the Captain would continue contact with Ambassador Spock.
"Okay, so," Jim continues, looking alarmingly pleased. "A few more things. Twice-weekly meetings, just you and me. Officially debrief of ship status and crew, unofficially explaining in small and easily understood words what it is that keeps us from a quick but hideously painful death in by implosion in the vacuum of space. Good so far?"
"When we aren't on duty, call me Jim and pretend you aren't imagining a happier world where I never escaped from Hoth."
Spock hesitates. "I am curious--you have referred the planet as Hoth twice now. Does the name have significance?"
The Captain starts to grin. "And during one of our twice weekly meetings, while you teach me how a ship runs, I will instruct you on the wonder that is ancient pop cultural references. See? This is a working relationship I can get behind. Think they're still talking about how perfectly the ship is running in that meeting?"
Spock considers. "Typically, a full staff meeting that includes the heads of all departments will take several hours."
"Excellent." Getting to his feet, Captain Kirk motions toward the door. "Uhura's in charge, right? Tell her to drag it out as long as possible. We're going to tour the ship and I'm going to find Scotty's still and steal pieces of it in exchange for fifteen minutes with the warp core. And maybe find out where the hell everything is. Give me five minutes."
Grinning, the Captain vanishes into the bathroom and Spock considers what he's just agreed to.
All things considered, Spock thinks, mapping the most efficient route through the ship, this confrontation could have yielded far less positive results. "Captain?"
The Captain returns, picking up the game console with a sigh. "What?"
"Admiral Phillips was an avid collector. Over the course of his time as captain, he collected memorabilia from every world he visited to celebrate the various ways different beings achieved successful reproduction."
The Captain drops the game console, blue eyes wide. It is not often Spock can elicit such a response from him. "You're telling me Phillips--Phillips, has a stupid regulation for every occasion Phillips--collected alien sex toys?"
"As I was one of those required to procure them and explain their usage in terms he could easily understand--"
"Unprofessional tantrums in a staff meeting aren't going to shock you." Straightening the hem of his tunic, the Captain grins. "Consider me schooled, Mr. Spock. Shall we?"
"As you wish, Captain."
- rebootfic: You'll Get There in the End (It Just Takes a While) 1/4