Title: Don't Stop Believing 2.5/?
Pairings/Characters: Pike/Spock, N1, Uhura, Kirk
Summary: Sometimes it takes an outsider to open one’s eyes to the obvious.
The first time Nyota enters his class three weeks later, Spock feels incredibly awkward. He knows he has no one to blame but himself, but that doesn’t seem to make his situation the tiniest bit better. She doesn’t look at him as she passes his desk, but she blushes spectacularly, and Spock realizes she’s equally if not more embarrassed.
He is surprised to see her waiting for the rest of her classmates to leave after the lecture, and looks at her warily as she walks toward him. She looks different, wearing standard cadet uniform, but she’s still undeniably attractive.
“Commander, may I have a word?” she asks quietly.
Spock nods, stepping down from the podium to be level with her. “I have been meaning to talk to you as well.”
“And I bet I can guess the subject.” She chuckles awkwardly, though with a fine measure of humor. “Look. What happened, happened. They say you thought you were leaving, and I thought – I wasn’t really thinking.” She pauses. “Okay, so maybe I have just a little bit of a crush on you, and maybe I’ve had it for a while, and the fantastic sex didn’t really help it any, but – it’s not going to be a problem. What I mean is—” She looks him in the eye squarely “—I’m not going to be a problem. I respect you professionally, and I want to be part of your class. I won’t be expecting special treatment and I know you’re not going to be asking for sexual favors. So – we’re fine, right?”
Spock blinks and has to swallow, processing the information. “Your conclusions appear to be sound,” he says. “I would be pleased to have you as a student.”
She smiles, obvious relief on her face. “Awesome. They say you don’t like to give out As very much.” Her eyes twinkle mischievously. “You better be ready to change your policies, because I fully intend to sweep you off your feet.”
Spock has to fight back a smile. “You already have, Cadet,” he says, and, to his immense satisfaction, she blushes. “I do not believe additional efforts would be necessary.”
“I meant with my knowledge.” She laughs and shakes her head. “You’re an unbearable flirt.”
He raises an eyebrow. “I assure you, you are the only person who upholds that opinion.”
“I sure hope so,” she says enigmatically before winking. “See you next week, Commander.”
Having Nyota in his class is exhilarating. For the first time, Spock begins to appreciate how Pike must have felt having Spock in his. Always scrupulous in preparing his lectures, Spock is now spending extra time searching for additional ways to keep his students’ interests – something he’s never given much thought to before.
Partly, it helps him to redirect his mind from a second job he no longer has. In the first weeks after Ramirez dismissed him, Spock very nearly goes through the withdrawal symptoms. It’s only then that he realizes in full how dependent he became on the regular infusions of raw adrenaline. Mentally-wise, Pike’s return and their newly drawn truce help Spock to center himself again, restoring his balance. He works out for long hours, pushing his body almost into a frenzy to assuage some of its cravings.
It also helps him sleep, at least to an extent. Admitting to nightmares is not very Vulcan.
He doesn’t see Pike very often. The captain’s schedule is so tight that Spock insists on meeting over lunch or dinner to make sure Christopher actually eats something. In six months that have passed since Pike returned to the Academy, his weight loss has been alarming and Spock is worried, monitoring his condition closely. Pike teases him for being a mother hen, but his exhaustion is palpable and Spock ignores his protests, even when Pike pulls rank on him.
When Number One is on Earth, she joins them. It’s a little awkward at first, but they all adjust fairly quickly. Spock has always respected her, and he can’t honestly fault her for being better than him.
“You’ve grown, Spock,” she tells him once, when Pike has been recalled to attend some urgent meeting and they are left alone. “I started to notice it back on the ship, but then it was just a hint of a change. I don’t know what you’ve been doing for a year here, but I bet it wasn’t just teaching.”
Spock leans back in his chair slightly and looks at her calmly. “On what do you base your observation?”
Number One smiles, but it has the mystifying look of a pythoness. “You’ve changed too much. It doesn’t come merely with preparing lectures.”
Spock arches an eyebrow. “In what way?” He’s genuinely curios and slightly alarmed. He never told Christopher – or anyone for that matter – about his self-imposed penance. Somehow, he doubts Pike would approve.
“You’ve become more assertive with your opinions,” Number One says matter-of-factly. “You always had strong convictions, of course, but you used to yield to Chris out of respect even when you didn’t agree.” She looks up at him, eyes narrowed slightly. “You don’t do that anymore. All I’ve been hearing from him lately is how stubborn you are and that he can’t move you on any subject.”
Spock frowns. “I have not noticed. If I have been disrespectful—”
She chuckles. “You’re never disrespectful. But you’re definitely your own man now. Mind you, I don’t mean to say that you weren’t before. There’s always been that spark of independence in you – something fierce, almost feral. To be honest, it frightened me a little.”
“Frightened you?” To Spock’s eye, she’s always been fearless.
Her expression is mildly clouded as she looks at him. “I wasn’t sure Chris could handle you,” she says bluntly. “Let me tell you something about your beloved mentor, Spock. I’ve known him for fifteen years, and in all this time – in all this time – he’s never lost his head the way he did with you. He’s a loner by character and choice. He’s the most disciplined man I’ve ever met.” She fixes Spock with her eyes and he has to suppress a shiver. “When he met you, he went insane.”
Spock’s mouth goes utterly dry, and he can’t come close to making any kind of response. It seems, though, that Number One isn’t expecting one.
“You were his obsession.” She speaks quietly. “For all I know, you still are. He broke nearly every rule he’s made for himself – and he broke them for you. Do you even understand, Spock? He’d do anything for you. When you left, he was...” She trails off and shakes her head. “I don’t even want to remember.”
Spock suddenly finds it difficult to breathe. Something hot is growing inside his chest, expanding rapidly, something that cannot possibly be contained. Number One’s piercing blue eyes bore into him with strange cruelty that he has never noticed before.
“Has it ever occurred to you that you and I are pretty much alike?” she asks in a would-be mild tone. “We’re both rational, both control our emotions, both adhere to logic above all else.” She fishes the cherry out of her drink and examines it captiously. “Both not quite human.”
Spock has to swallow before he can speak. “Do you mean to say that—”
“I don’t mean to say anything,” she snaps. “What I mean is – it’s long past time you stopped acting stupid. Really, Spock. It doesn’t suit you.”
He can only stare at her helplessly. “I did not know,” he manages finally. “I thought... I...”
She peers at him perceptively. “You thought you were merely an infatuation? A way to deal with the midlife crisis? You thought he kept you around for the same reasons other people buy sport cars?”
Spock closes his eyes at his unbelievable ignorance. He hears Number One sigh.
“I always knew he was serious about you,” she says quietly. “But I didn’t know how serious – until he let you go.”
Suddenly, Spock can’t take it anymore. He bolts from the officers’ lounge as if the whole Klingon armada is after him. He’s never been to Pike’s apartment before, but he knows where it is, and his feet carry him there almost of their own volition.
Pike isn’t home yet, and Spock waits. He sits on the bed rigidly, hands clasped firmly in his lap, and listens to Number One’s words over and over again in his head. He almost misses the door when it opens.
“Spock?” Pike sounds surprised. “God, you scared me. What are you doing here?”
Spock stands up, but doesn’t answer, staring at Pike instead. He takes in the dark shadows under his eyes, the way the corners of his mouth turn downward, the way his eyes always seem so sad when there used to be so much life in them...
“Spock, what’s wrong?” Pike asks, and now he’s clearly concerned. “Did something happen? Are you all right?”
That does it.
Spock backs Pike into the wall abruptly, pinning him to it like a moth, and kisses him hard. Pike doesn’t resist, not really, but he isn’t exactly responding, either. First chance he gets, he shoves Spock back slightly and looks into his eyes.
“Spock, what the hell?”
“I’m sorry,” Spock whispers, leaning in, trailing feather-light kisses along Pike’s jaw. “Christopher — Chris, I’m so sorry.”
Pike closes his eyes, going suddenly limp in Spock’s hold.
“Read you the riot act, did she?” he mutters, dropping his head to Spock’s shoulder. “I knew it was a bad idea to leave you two alone.”
“She loves you very much.”
“Yes, she does, and I love her, too, but that doesn’t make it right. She shouldn’t have said anything, not to you—”
Pike cups Spock’s face with his hands and looks him in the eye with intent. “You have nothing to be sorry for, okay?” he says ardently. “Nothing at all.”
Spock kisses him again, and this time Pike relents, sliding his hands into Spock’s hair, pulling him closer.
“Missed you,” he whispers against Spock’s lips. “Missed you so much.”
They make love slowly, remembering the feel of each other, and it’s bittersweet and emotional, and Spock simply cannot bring himself to care. He’s humbled by the depth of Pike’s feelings. He’s humbled by the endless lengths this man is willing to go for him. Spock’s desperate for a chance to redeem himself, to show his gratitude and his devotion.
“Promise me one thing,” Pike mutters at the murky grey hour, just before dawn, as they lie draped around each other.
“Don’t feel guilty when you fall in love.”
Spock feels his heart freeze its beating. “Christopher...”
Pike rolls on top of him and looks down at him, intense and very, very serious.
“I’m not an idiot, Spock. You love me. But you’re not in love with me. You’ll fall in love one day. Even Vulcans do that. With that lovely cadet of yours perhaps or maybe with someone else. And when it happens I want you to remember that you’re free. You don’t belong to me and you owe me nothing.”
“Christopher, this is hardly fair—”
“Hush. Promise me, Spock, or I’ll kick you out right this moment and won’t ever let you back.”
Spock stares into his eyes through the darkness, and wishes illogically and desperately for the things to be different. For Pike to be wrong.
“I promise,” he whispers.
Pike smiles at him and plants a soft kiss on his forehead.
The two years that follow seem to be the most stable period of Spock’s life. He discovers new gratification in academic achievements. Cadets are competing for a place in his classes, despite his reputation of being a harsh taskmaster. Together with his colleagues, Spock wins the Zee Magnee Prize in multiphysics, and even though he doesn’t go to Centauri Prime for the award ceremony, the echo of the festivities leaves him pleasantly satisfied.
He does wake up sometimes in the middle of the night, seemingly without a reason, with his heart beating in his throat and his chest burning. The year he spent hunting down monsters of all shapes and forms keeps reminding Spock of its existence, and while he’s learned to control the flashbacks while awake, his sleep hours become a minefield, and his mornings often find him more exhausted than his evenings.
Slowly, Spock comes to substituting his human sleep with light meditative trance of the Vulcans. It takes some conscious efforts on his part, but he is persistent. He cannot afford to admit to nightmares in front of Christopher.
His relationship with Pike is consistent and steady. Spock knows that Number One is still Pike’s lover as well as his friend, and he finds himself curiously unaffected. He feels grateful to her for being there when he can’t. He decides that he must not be what humans call a jealous type.
It doesn’t really come as a surprise that he and Nyota become close. Spock knew the day they met that she had all the qualities to become a treasured companion, and she seems to find him equally fascinating. Neither of them makes any references ever again to the night they spent together, and if she flirts with him a little every now and then, Spock knows that it’s perfectly innocent.
“What is the purpose of this display?” Spock asks her one evening, as they are walking across the campus.
Nyota follows his gaze to where several male cadets are splashing each other with buckets of water while a small, mostly female audience watches.
“What – this?” Nyota laughs. “I guess there are no wet t-shirt contests on Vulcan, then?”
Spock feels his eyebrow curve. “None that I am aware of,” he says. The very thought that something as precious as water could be treated with such carelessness is akin to sacrilege. Unable to deduce the meaning of the proceedings with so little clues, Spock asks, more articulately, “What are they doing?”
“They are... Well, they’re splashing each other with water, obviously,” she says, giggling.
“For the purpose of—?”
“Defining who looks the most sexually appealing in a wet t-shirt.”
Spock looks at her piercingly. She catches his gaze.
“I’m not pulling your leg, I swear.” She grins. “It’s an old Earth custom. For idiots, obviously, but there you are.”
“I see,” Spock looks back toward the young men who are now all decidedly wet. “And these other cadets are acting as a jury?”
“Yeah,” Uhura nods, glancing at Spock mischievously as the small crowd erupts in catcalls and whistles. “Say, Spock, who would you choose?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Well, if you were in that crowd, who’d you pick?”
“I find myself ill-equipped to judge in this particular matter.”
“Why?” she asks. “You have eyes, don’t you? And I daresay your sense of aesthetics is rather well-developed.”
Spock peers at her sideways. “You will not let it go, will you?”
She smirks. “No.”
“You do realize this is vastly inappropriate.”
“I won’t tell anyone.”
Spock certainly doesn’t roll his eyes in the slightest as he concedes. “Very well,” he allows. “If it pleases you.”
He looks over the line of wet, laughing males appraisingly. Almost immediately, a young man at the end of the line catches his eye. He’s lean and wiry, though not as much as a Vulcan. He’s wearing old, dark pants that hang dangerously low and threaten to fall down completely under too much scrutiny, as well as a white t-shirt that clings to his chest and arms, underlining the obvious but not excessively forceful relief of his muscles. His skin is well-tanned and his hair is bronze-spiked gold.
His hands are on his hips and he’s laughing infectiously, his head thrown back, his whole frame relaxed and oozing raw sexuality. He is simply captivating, stunning in his unabashed lack of self-consciousness. But it’s only when he turns and Spock catches a glimpse of his eyes does he realize that he’s seen the boy before.
“Well?” Nyota prompts him.
“The young man in the white t-shirt, second from the right,” Spock says before he can stop himself. “If there were any kind of prize to be given for something as illogical as mere appearance, I would give it to him.”
There is a pregnant pause, and then Nyota blurts out, “You can’t be serious.”
Spock turns to look at her. “I was given to understand there were no ‘correct’ choices. This is an exercise in subjectivity.”
“Well, yes, obviously,” she says, impatient. “But to choose Kirk, of all people.”
Immediately, Spock glances back toward the cadets, eyes zooming on his ‘winner.’
“This – is James Kirk?”
“You know him?”
“Of him,” Spock says and nudges her gently to resume walking. “His scores are most impressive. He is currently at the top of your class, is he not?”
“Yeah,” she drawls sourly. “It only makes him more unbearable. He takes nothing seriously.”
“And yet his grades would suggest otherwise. Also, I have read his paper on the tactical value of certain space battle maneuvers. It was both logical and intriguing. It has, actually, been taken under advisement by Starfleet Operations.”
“Why are you so interested in him?”
Spock pauses. “I was merely curious. Captain Pike speaks very highly of him.”
“Oh,” Nyota says meaningfully, eyebrows up. “I see.”
“However.” Spock looks back at the laughing crowd for a moment, watching Kirk stripping out of his wet shirt. He finds himself oddly fascinated by Kirk’s body language – vibrant yet impeccably precise, and although the cadet is never completely still, he doesn’t create an impression of excessive motion. “I must confess, I have not expected that he would be so...” Spock hesitates, searching for words.
“Wild?” Nyota suggests. She’s watching Kirk too, a light grimace of distaste on her face.
‘Sensual’ is the word that won’t leave Spock alone, but he settles for, “Overt.”
Nyota snorts. “That’s Kirk, all right. He changed his modesty for a lollipop when he was two. Or maybe for a self-sealing stem bolt.”
Spock frowns slightly, analyzing the uncommon reference. “You are being humorous,” he finally concludes.
“Yes, well.” Nyota looks up at him. “It’s Kirk, you know. I wouldn’t be so sure.”
Spock spares another glance at the live contradiction in question.