Title: Don't Stop Believing 2.6/?
Pairing/Characters: Pike/Spock, Uhura, Kirk
Summary: Spock gets a job offer and discovers he is a property of a small domesticated animal. Uhura causes a strain in interstellar relations, and Pike talks about Kirk. A lot.
Notes: Please visit the Master Post for more detailed pairings/summary navigation.
“He’s going to be a fine captain one day,” Pike tells Spock a week later as they walk across Academy grounds, leaving for the night. Those slow, soothing walks have become a ritual of sorts, not unlike how their morning jogging used to be. “He shows plenty of promise.”
“I could not pass judgment of my own,” Spock says, “as he is not in any of my classes.”
“Which is probably good,” Pike chuckles. “He’s a tough customer to handle in class.”
Spock lifts an eyebrow. “You believe I would not be up to the task?”
Pike pats his shoulder amicably. “You’d be ice to his fire, Spock. He’d annoy the hell out of you, and I’m not so sure you’d win. He’s a particularly pig-headed kid.” The captain adds the last sentiment with a fond smile.
Spock peers at him sideways. “You appear to have acquired a new favorite, Captain.”
Pike sends him a bright grin. “Jealous, Spock?”
Before Spock can find an answer to this most undignified, not to mention ridiculous, question, Pike stops and darts a few looks around to make sure they aren’t watched. Satisfied with what he sees, he leans into Spock and whispers, lips brushing the sensitive ear. “I promise not to take him skiing.”
Spock shivers as sharp teeth catch his earlobe gently and swiftly before withdrawing. He reciprocates immediately by gliding two fingertips along Pike’s wrist, accompanying the gesture with the lightest telepathic suggestion. He is immensely pleased to hear the human’s breath hitch.
“I was never concerned, Christopher,” Spock murmurs, watching Pike’s pupils dilate.
The captain pulls away hastily, looking decidedly flushed. “You are evil, you know that?”
Spock gives him an eyebrow. “I learned from the master.”
Pike chuckles and they resume their stroll. The breeze from the bay sweeps past Spock’s cheek, bringing in the odors of seaweed and wet sand and something else, unidentifiable but thick and intoxicating. It’s not only the smell but more the feel of the ocean, its fifth dimension, vast and blurry and alive, that engulfs them meticulously like a caring mother with a blanket. Spock listens to the symphony of sounds and suddenly he doesn’t want to talk.
“He leaps without looking,” Pike says softly, his expression milder, the sharp lines of his face being smoothed by the warm, damp wind. “Starfleet lost that. We’ve become still waters. Jim Kirk is a geyser we need to shake some life back into us.”
Spock’s eyebrow twitches slightly, but he says nothing. The seagulls seem to be flying particularly low tonight. Spock has lived in San Francisco long enough to come in touch with some of the nautical markers. He knows that later in the night, it’s going to rain.
“You don’t agree?” Pike prompts him gently.
Spock tilts his head to his side a little, a gesture he has come to use as a substitute for a human shrug.
“Starfleet is primarily a human organization,” he muses. “As such, you are better equipped to determine its needs. Vulcans tend to identify and exclude any destabilizing elements from their institutions.”
Spock knows this firsthand. It used to be a deep concern of his father’s that, despite his academic achievements, Spock would never be allowed into the VSA due to his unpredictable and unstable reactions. A concern that proved to be justified when, after years of meticulous training and hard work, Spock rejected their offer.
Spock’s lips curve slightly at the irony of his position. His father’s concerns, however valid, would never be understood by humans, even the shrewdest ones such as Pike. To them, Spock will always come as a model officer, model scientist, obedient and compliant; a devotee adept of discipline and a strict follower of rules.
It leaves a bitter taste in his mouth, the realization that if he truly were any of those things, he’d be working diligently for the VSA right now, back on his homeplanet, as an accepted and respected member of the society. The beautiful and brilliant T’Pring would have been his faithful wife, and his father would have been readying him to take up his seat on the Vulcan High Council one day.
It would have been a perfectly logical life.
At this instant, Spock envies James Kirk, a man he’s never met, just a little. He is a rebel in a culture that worships rebels. He doesn’t have to do anything to be accepted, perhaps even admired, but be himself. Spock knows that for him, it’s never going to be that simple.
The worst of it all, however, is that he cannot bring himself to regret it. He yearns to fit in, but not at the cost of denouncing who he is. It is presumptuous of him, he knows, as he’s been told too many times. Presumptuous and arrogant to consider his own unique identity more precious than cultural imperatives of an advanced civilization such as Vulcan. He agrees with this assessment. But he cannot – doesn’t want – to change.
Pike is standing in front of him, regarding him with a hint of concern. Spock realizes they have come to a point where their paths separate, unless they spend the night together. He also realizes Pike has been talking to him, and he hasn’t been listening.
“Where did you go?” Pike asks him quietly.
“I—” Spock pauses. “My apologies, Christopher. My concentration appears to be... wandering, tonight.”
Pike rubs his arm gently. “Happens to the best of us. Are you all right? You seem a little pale.”
“I am fine,” Spock says, more curtly than he intended. “But I seem to be in need of meditation.”
“Oh,” Pike nods, stepping back, and Spock misses the warmth of his touch immediately. “Then I won’t keep you. Goodnight, Spock.”
He sits on the cold pebbles, listening to the rhythmic whisper of waves all night. He doesn’t meditate and he doesn’t go home.
They corner him when he’s least expecting it, and of all the inopportune moments, this one is perhaps the worst, given his current frame of mind.
He’s at the gym, working out alone as is his habit. His status of a professor entitles him to some privileges, and being able to book a private booth at the gym is one of those Spock actually invokes.
He isn’t exactly self-conscious, never has been, but he has discovered that practicing in the common area usually leads to a lot of staring and sometimes to impromptu training sessions. Spock doesn’t mind sharing the knowledge, but he is aware that the regular physical training and hand-to-hand combat instructors don’t approve of him giving unscheduled lessons, and even though they lack the authority to stop them, he tries not to annoy his colleagues. He supposes he would be equally dismayed if someone walked in on his regular classes.
He’s working out alone, pushing his body to the limits as usual. With the regime he keeps, it takes a lot to make his muscles burn, but Spock is persistent. Number One, who sparred with him several times – and had him pinned to the mat more times then he would be comfortable to admit, noted that he was coming close to being cruel to his own body. Spock naturally doesn’t agree with this assessment, as for Vulcans, testing the limits of one’s endurance is as much a form of a mental exercise as it is physical, but he can understand where the misconception stems from.
They catch him by surprise, and they are good. He never hears them coming, which considering his Vulcan hearing is telling. They have been able to get through the Academy security net, and that’s telling, too.
He is knocked face down on the mat and held there while someone pulls a thick black bag over his head. He tries to break free, but he is held down by at least two people, and judging by the way his lungs contract under pressure, they are far from lightweights. His arms are being pulled back painfully and held tightly.
“Enough,” someone says above him. “Let him breathe.”
The pressure lifts, and in a moment, Spock is free. Immediately, he rolls to his feet and straightens up, tossing away the blindfold in an almost angry motion.
He is surrounded by three men dressed in inconspicuous dirty-grey training suits. Their features are curiously bland as if they all share the same face and it’s so unexpressive that it will likely be lost in seconds in any crowd. They are all watching Spock fixedly, but don’t make any more aggressive moves.
Spock focuses his attention on the fourth man, leaning casually against the wall at the door. He’s dressed like a rich businessman with poor taste. His face is unfamiliar, but something about him is, Spock can sense it.
“Who are you?” he demands. “How did you get in here?”
The man at the wall smiles slightly and shakes his head. “You don’t get to ask me questions, 37. However, I may answer some – if you’re able to walk out of this room.”
Spock processes the information quickly, eyeing his opponents appraisingly at the same time. “And if I’m not?”
The man’s expression becomes smug as he turns to go. “If you’re not, you won’t care.”
The door isn’t quite closed behind him when Spock is attacked.
He didn’t underestimate them, but the thought is a small solace. They are good. Amateurs tend to think that if they gather more people on their side in a hand-to-hand fight, they’ll be undoubtedly victorious. Spock knows this to be very far from the truth. Three is perhaps the greatest number of fighters who can effectively attack one opponent at the same time without hindering each other’s actions. Add one more – and defeating them will be easier. Three more – and they’ll be fighting each other trying to get to him.
At the moment, however, he is nowhere near that fortunate, because there are precisely three of them, and they know exactly what they’re doing. Spock moves as fast as he can, his body warmed up after the workout, the adrenaline spiking his reaction. Le-matya on the evening hunt. These three have fought together for a long time, Spock can tell. The wrath of the Forge – the dancing sand. He defends himself, and he is successful, but defense isn’t going to gain him his freedom. Le-matya fighting against hunters. Le-matya fighting for his mate.
One down, two to go.
His ‘Vulcan wushu’ as Pike had once called it is, in fact, a streak of the ancient martial art, adapted later for recreational purposes. But there would be no weaklings in the House of Surak, whatever their blood composition may be, and Spock had been trained meticulously from an early age, not at all unlike his savage ancestors. It’s not a surprise he has instinctively recalled bone-deep engraved combat combinations, inspired by severe, unforgiving nature of his home planet.
Wounded sehlat attacks. A violent, seemingly uncoordinated outbreak of heavy ‘blind’ strikes and hits, neglecting defense. Sehlat shows his fangs. Fingers digging into flesh, dislocating joints.
His body moves on autopilot now, as he watches and awaits his opening. Usually when fighting any representative of emotionally driven species, Spock knows that their emotions would start to interfere with their actions, and it will give him an upper hand even if his opponents are stronger than him. But these humans fight with detachment of androids, and their efficiency. They also seem to be much stronger than ordinary human males, and Spock suspects DNA manipulation.
The sand treacherous. Quick low dive, sliding under the opponent’s feet. Sehlat hungry. A vicious hit in the solar plexus. Sehlat and le-matya crossing paths. A combination of hits and blows, breaking the rhythm, a ‘chaotic’ attack. The tail of a le-matya. A nerve pinch delivered blindly with his back to his opponent.
Two down, one to go.
There is a certain sense of satisfaction drawn from the sight of his last adversary casting a wary look at his unconscious teammates. Spock doesn’t allow him much time for contemplation.
Le-matya pouncing its prey. Le-matya prevailing.
Spock rises up from where he has been straddling the last of his attackers before rendering him unconscious, too, and looks around warily, all senses alert and en garde. But there is no movement anywhere, just the sound of uneasy breathing. He wasn’t gentle, but then why should he be? Slowly, he walks toward the exit.
The locker room is empty but for him and the human who ordered the attack. Spock eyes him coolly, not approaching. The man smiles at him again, closing the scanning device that had obviously allowed him to witness the encounter.
“Impressive,” he says, glancing over Spock up and down. “And you’re not even out of breath. Very impressive indeed. My compliments, 37. These are my best men.”
“Who are you?” Spock repeats his earlier question. He suspects the man has a weapon hidden on him somewhere. It’s the only reason why Spock hasn’t yet attempted to alert security.
“Someone who’s here to offer you a job,” the man says. “For the sake of convenience, you may call me Kosan.”
“You are not from the Federation Security,” Spock states the obvious.
“Hell, no,” Kosan laughs.
“How do you know my former designation?”
“I have my sources. It’s necessary when you’re in this business, 37.”
“And what exactly is your business?”
“A most profitable one. I sell weapons.”
Spock feels his eyebrow arch of its own volition. “You realize that I am obligated to arrest you?”
Kosan laughs again softly and pats his arm. “This transponder works faster than any of your pathetic Starfleet toys. I’ll be out of your reach before you can so much as raise the alarm. And you may report me all you want,” he adds with a pleasant smile, “but bear in mind that there will be no logs to confirm your claim, and this isn’t my real face.”
Spock feels a cold draft sliding down his spine as he regards the man with ostensible calmness.
“What made you think I would be prone to accepting your offer?” he asks, half-stalling, half-curious. “I am a Vulcan. We cherish peace.”
“Yet you are the only Vulcan who’s ever worked as a bounty hunter,” Kosan remarks pointedly. “The FS gave you a glowing note on usefulness and I can see it’s deserved. I can tell you this, 37. Whatever it was that kept you coming back to them – I’ll give you tenfold.”
Spock stares him in the eye squarely.
Kosan appears unaffected by his answer. “What you do here is child’s play compared to what we do,” he says. “Think about the possibilities.”
“I said no.” Spock takes a step forward. “I will not say it again. Unless you leave now, you are under arrest—”
Kosan raises his hands, and Spock sees a small white card between his fingers.
“This is in case you change your mind,” Kosan says and throws the card to the floor at Spock’s feet. Then, before Spock can draw another breath, Kosan presses a spot on his forearm and disappears instantly in an unfamiliar looking transporter beam.
Spock dashes back into the training room, but it’s empty. Kosan has obviously taken care of his people. He returns into the locker room and picks up the card from the floor. It has nothing but a comm frequency on it. Spock stares at it thoughtfully, thinking about his options. So far, he can only come up with one.
Later that night, secured within the confines of his apartment, he does something he hasn’t done in nearly two years. He calls Captain Ramirez.
The captain stares at him blankly and for a moment, Spock thinks he’ll have to introduce himself. Then he remembers about the time difference and calmly waits for the human to become more awake. Ramirez listens to him mostly in silence, frowning and cursing under his breath.
“There’s been a security breach,” the captain tells him wearily, once Spock is finished. “Some of our personnel files have been accessed, and they were mostly looking for people like you – who worked for us and either was discharged or quit. We weren’t able to trace them, and no one bothered to contact us save for you.”
“That is hardly surprising,” Spock comments dryly, remembering the common attitude toward the ‘outsourcers’ inside the FS. “What do you intend to do, Captain?”
Ramirez swears before replying. “We’ll check that comm he gave you, but I’m pretty sure it’s a dead end if anyone but you calls. I don’t suppose you’d want to quit your Starfleet job and come play bait for us in an undercover operation that will likely last a year or so?”
“No,” Spock says firmly. “I do not work for you anymore.”
Ramirez sighs. “Thought not. In that case, we’ll take it from here.”
“Perhaps if he appears again—”
“He won’t,” Ramirez cuts him off, certain. “We’ve been watching him for a while, but he’s a cautious type. That’s why we can’t build a case against him – he’s too damn careful and too damn smart. He checked your temperature in case you were interested, but he would never try to force your hand. Your position is too visible – there could be too many unpredictable consequences. Nah, you’re a dead end to us in this case now. You’ll never see him again, or I’d put a team to watch your every step.”
Spock purses his lips. “Your logic appears to be sound. I shall contact you if your conclusions prove to be wrong.”
Ramirez gives him a thin smile. “You do that.” He signs off.
Spock stares at the dark monitor for several minutes. He rubs his hands along his arms unconsciously, as if chasing away the cold.
The conversation has eased his mind, but not enough. He yearns to talk to someone, but that would entail telling the whole story and this isn’t something Spock is prepared to do. He can’t tell Pike because that would earn him not only a shouting match, but most likely a full time security detail, and that’s the last thing Spock wants. Not to mention that it would be totally unwarranted, but humans are sometimes so illogical.
That’s not the real reason, however. The real reason is that he isn’t ready to answer the first, most obvious – the why question. He cannot explain something he doesn’t fully understand himself.
He resigns to meditation followed by short hours of fitful sleep. He wakes up long before the alarm to the feeling of something warm pressing him down, and it’s unfamiliar, but somehow lacks a sense of threat. Spock opens his eyes cautiously and discovers a pair of luminescent bright green eyes with vertical pupils staring back at him unblinkingly. Spock closes his eyes again wondering when he had become a legitimate sleeping cushion for his neighbor’s cat.
Agnes is not I-Chaya, but she is a warm, fuzzy, purring weight across his chest, and when Spock lifts his hand halfheartedly to shoo her away, she regards it with detached curiosity, not budging one limb, and then peers back at him with a pitying expression: Aren’t you stupid?
Spock sighs and drifts back to sleep, privately agreeing with her assessment. She stretches her paws over him possessively and digs her claws into the sheets catching just a bit of his skin so that he wouldn’t get any more stupid ideas like going somewhere or getting himself killed.
Two days later, Spock leaves for a cross-cultural communications conference that Starfleet hosts on Deneb IV, taking along those of his students who major in his subject, including Nyota. They spend a month and a half engrossed in all kinds of fascinating cultural exchanges. It’s like a very long and captivating seminar, complete with maturity tests of ten different species, great quantities of gagh peppered with live-delivered Klingon curses, Denobulan ménage-à-trois/quatre/cinq/.../the-numbe
For a while, Spock very nearly forgets English all together, because he’s not using it even when he happens to run across one of his students, which occurs at the most unpredictable moments and places. They all manage to give him status reports on their projects on schedule, though, and he thinks with a certain sense of satisfaction that he has taught them well. Indeed, he is pleased to note that Cadet Rogers gets her Argellian cases and genders right even in the middle of the impromptu belly dance lesson/kalian smoking session, and Cadet Ashanin doesn’t forget the three stages of Kapellan ritual bow when he’s doing it walking amidst very sharp and very real swords.
In fact, barring that one time when Nyota nearly manages to cause an interstellar incident by turning down an invitation to have a drink with a Cardassian gul – and Spock isn’t exactly certain how he ends up having that drink and talking about their races’ mutual preference for warmer environments, the conference proves to be a stimulating and highly pleasurable experience.
When Spock gets back to the Academy, he finds a note from Ramirez on his desk.
Your friend has taken his business elsewhere. Confirmed. You won’t be seeing him. Confirmed. No need to thank me.
Spock reads the note several times, letting the words sink in. When it finally happens, he calls Pike’s aide and finds out that the captain is free after 20:00. When Spock asks him to change this status in Pike’s schedule for ‘an outside appointment,’ the young man flashes him a smile so bright it almost hurts.
“Thank God, you’re back, Commander,” he almost sings. “I was starting to plan on feeding him intravenously.”
Spock listens to his complaints regarding Pike’s blatant neglect of his well-being for another five minutes, collecting information, before bidding the aide a polite goodbye. Spock almost catches himself smiling back at him and realizes his elation is contagious.
Christopher asks him later that night why they are dining at the most luxurious restaurant in town, hanging between the sea of lights beneath them and the stars above them, but Spock merely says that he is pleased to be back. Pike talks about the Enterprise, Jim Kirk, major Academy gossip, Number One’s latest ‘reckless escapade, and honestly, Spock, I taught her better than that,’ and Spock listens to him blissfully, feeling almost like he has come home.