Pairings/Characters: implied Pike/Spock, Pike/N1, N1, Sarek
Summary: Spock accepts a job offer and makes a promise. Also, there's a really cool lady on a hover bike.
Notes: Please visit the Master Post for navigation/previous parts/pairings.
Instead of a simple expulsion, which leaves a possibility of reapplying, Mitchell gets a dishonorable discharge for fraud, which does not – Spock is not that defensive of his pride in this particular case to let the matter drop. However right, that is perhaps not the wisest decision he’s ever made. When Commodore Mitchell, the third in the Starfleet Security’s chain of command, comes down on the Academy board for mistreating his son, Spock becomes the focal point of his wrath.
He is dragged through a number of hearings, designed to demonstrate his incompetence to deal with personnel matters in general and his unfamiliarity with Cadet Mitchell’s case in particular. It’s tedious and time-consuming, and humiliating to a certain degree; Spock is only off the hook when Admiral Barnett steps in and, in his own words, ‘ends the circus.’
Spock’s troubles don’t end there, however. Commodore Mitchell issues orders to search his apartment and his office. The first time it’s masked as a security drill, Spock being a ‘random’ target. The second time it’s ostensibly following a lead in some investigation. The third time the warrant is so unclear that Spock has to run a semantic analysis to make sure that it’s not his imagination and the paper indeed doesn’t make any sense.
Spock is getting extremely frustrated with being woken up in the middle of the night to have a number of nameless and faceless security officers turn his apartment inside out, sometimes deliberately breaking his belongings. He’s also not particularly fond of the rumors that Mitchell is spreading about Spock only getting his rank and position due to his personal relationship with Pike.
Spock is aware that the rumors are not taken seriously by anyone who knows either him or Pike, but he doesn’t enjoy being the number one subject in the Academy grapevine one bit. Pike laughs at him via the comm link, pointing out the utter ridiculousness of the accusations, and reminding Spock that no one in their right mind is going to believe that Spock has won the Zee Magnee Prize by sleeping with the jury. ‘He’s only making an idiot of himself, Spock. I’d let him.’
Strangely enough, Nyota happens to agree with Pike, using almost the same words. ‘Look, I’m a specialist in communications, right?’ she tells him in the library once. ‘That includes public relations. I’m telling you, the more he harasses you, the better you look, taking it all stoically and all. The commodore’s an idiot who doesn’t understand that anyone who’s ever talked to his son for five minutes knows full well he’s a dickhead and was expelled for a reason. He’s digging his own grave, Spock, and the best thing you can do is stand aside and let him.’
It’s not that Spock doesn’t trust them or doesn’t agree, but it’s hard on him. Vulcans are very private by nature, and Spock is perhaps doubly so. It’s the lesson he learned well, back in his childhood when every new discovery about him gave his classmates more ammunition for their constant teasing and tormenting. Somehow, everything about him always turns out to be different from everyone else, and not in any good sense, either.
Though he would never admit it to anyone, it’s a relief to join Pike at Riverside for a weekend. The Enterprise is ready to be hauled into orbit where the matter-antimatter reactor will be installed – the work is too dangerous to be conducted on Earth.
“So.” Pike grins at Spock after they have concluded the tour of the ship. “Like what you see?”
“The ship appears to be built in accordance to engineering specifications,” Spock intones evenly. Then, catching Pike’s eye, he allows, “She’s beautiful, Christopher.”
Pike beams at him. They walk side by side along the shiny, gleaming white corridors toward the airlock that connects the ship with the docks.
“She still needs a first officer,” Pike reminds him. “I wasn’t kidding, Spock. I want you. Incidentally, your name is at the top of the list of candidates the admiralty has sent me. Four years at the Academy is long enough, don’t you think?”
“I agree,” Spock says. “And I would be honored to serve under you as my captain, sir. However—” he stops, in his speech and in his tracks, searching for the right words.
“You’re worried about us?” Pike asks him quietly, even though they are alone in the corridor. “Spock.” He sighs. “I’m not your keeper. I’m asking you to join my crew with no strings attached. You know me. You served under me. You know that I don’t make professional decisions based on my personal feelings. You risked your life under my command, you did so on my orders, and Captain Pike” – Pike smiles a little – “was fine with it. As for Christopher, he was worried sick, but he didn’t get to run that ship and he doesn’t get to run this one.”
Spock pauses, amused despite himself. “Which one of you is asking me to join this crew, then?” he asks.
“Both.” Pike grins. “But you only have to answer to the captain, Commander. By the way,” he smirks mischievously, “congratulations on your promotion.”
Spock blinks. “I beg your pardon?”
“Barnett recommended you for promotion to full commander a month ago. I just happen to know it’s been approved.”
Spock takes a moment to absorb this. “I see,” he says at last. “It seems to be an uncommon time for any promotion to pass, however.”
“True,” Pike says. “It’s usually September or March. Rumor has it that someone in the brass liked the way you handled that Mitchell kid.”
“In other words, I am being promoted for initiating a scandal,” Spock concludes.
Pike rolls his eyes. “You know, it truly amazes me, your lack of self-confidence,” he says waspishly. “Spock, you’re being promoted because you damn well earned it, and if you didn’t change the fleet for the Academy, you’d have been promoted two years ago.”
“Be that as it may, I still—”
“You know,” Pike interrupts him firmly, “if I were any other captain, I’d dismiss you from consideration for my XO right now. No commanding officer can afford to doubt himself so much. But I’ve seen you in command, Spock. I’ve seen you taking control of the situation, with no hesitation and a cool head, making decisions – correct decisions – in the blink of an eye, giving people purpose and direction. You’re good at taking charge and I would trust you with my ship and my crew any time – any time at all, you understand? You’re good at encouraging people, but you need to learn to be fair to yourself. In your case, it means admitting your own virtues and accomplishments.”
Spock is silent. How can he explain this? Pike calls it false modesty, but Spock’s problem goes deeper. It’s not a problem, even, not to him. Merely a part of who he is.
He is five. He hurries home from school, filled with joy and pride. He has just been declared the best in his year in the mastery of Logic. He did not make a single mistake, and found a logical and uniquely correct resolution to all the premises he had been given. His eyes are shiny when he tells his father the news. Sarek looks down at him dispassionately as usual, but somehow Spock knows, he just knows his father disapproves.
‘What is the virtue of mastering the theory of logic if you still let your emotions control you? You have accomplished nothing, yet you are full of pride. Do not shame my name by boasting, at least.’
He is eight. He’s just completed his kahs-wan test, two years earlier than most of his peers. He is not proud of himself, but he is pleased. It was a difficult and dangerous journey, and had he not revealed supreme physical agility as well as clear thinking, he would not have survived. Between a le-matya, a pair of wild selhats, and a sand storm, he could have easily become one of those fatalities that are the inevitable consequence of every kahs-wan. He survived and proved that he is a true son of Vulcan.
‘You are an unruly child who had allowed his emotions to interfere with his logic and took the test before he was ready. Such a display is worth nothing. You will undergo the ordeal in two years again. Then we shall see whether you are worthy.’
He isn’t sure what terrifies him more – the prospect of repeating his fight for survival or the tears standing in his mother’s eyes.
He is eleven. He has long stopped sharing his accomplishments at school with his parents, knowing that Sarek receives a notification with his grades every trimester, and if his father does not wish to discuss it, it means Spock is faring satisfactory. He knows that the praise his teachers give him means nothing to Sarek, even though Spock secretly keeps the rare words of approval close to his heart. Like that one time when his natural sciences teacher told him that he showed ‘inspiration that surpassed logic.’ Spock knows it is illogical to be pleased and encouraged by the words, but he can’t help it; sometimes all he wants is to hear them again, so badly. He knows that every successful project he concludes is going to be examined for flaws by his father prior to him accepting the results. Spock has learned to discover and point out his work’s faults prior to presenting it to Sarek. He knows that if he can’t find any, it only means that he isn’t looking hard enough.
He is fourteen. He has won the Federation chess tournament in his age group. Sarek actually frowns. ‘You have had the benefit of the best teachers on Vulcan, yet your game is still erratic and full of what your mother would call ‘lucky guesses.’ If you cannot master the game properly, I fail to see why you insist on playing it.’
He is seventeen. He has stopped dreaming of ever gaining his father’s approval. It finally settles with him that he is never going to be good enough at anything he does – by default. His father claims to be incapable of experiencing disappointment, but Spock has been trying his patience long enough. He accepts the truth and the logic of the situation. He does what he has been wanting to do since he was ten: he applies for Starfleet.
His father does not approve, but somehow, it fails to have a significant effect on Spock anymore.
Pike sighs, watching him. “You’re never going to open up to me, are you?” he says, softly. “Spock, do you trust me?”
Spock blinks. “Implicitly, sir.”
“Good. Then trust me when I say that your problem is – you’re an overachiever. You’re very generous with accepting that everyone around you is doing their fair share, but your own work is never good enough for you.”
“There is always room for improvement,” Spock pronounces.
“No doubt.” Pike gives him a thin smile. “But when you strive for perfection, remember that even gods make mistakes. And you are a lot of phenomenal things, my stubborn friend” – Pike’s smile warms up tenfold – “but you are still only a mortal.”
Spock feels his own lips curve up slightly. “That is hard to debate.”
“Then don’t,” Pike advises. “There are better ways of spending this lifetime, even if it’s a Vulcan one. Now, will you leave me hanging forever or will you finally say yes to being my first officer so that we could work on that nonexistent ego of yours?”
Spock swallows his doubts with an effort. His whole nature is protesting but he fights it, and it’s a start.
“It will be my honor, Captain.”
“No, no, Commander.” Spock doesn’t object to Pike shaking his hand. The captain’s grin is undeniably insolent. “The honor’s all mine. Now that that’s over with, get to work. We’ve got about five hundred people to employ.”
Spock very narrowly avoids smiling. “Yes, sir.”
Number One shows up at his office when Spock is least expecting her. Which, come to think of it, could be any given moment, because showing up without a warning isn’t her usual MO.
“That girlfriend of yours,” she says by means of greeting, “Uhura, right? She’s your TA, isn’t she? Can she handle a class?”
Spock sets the PADD he’s been studying aside carefully and looks at Number One, without giving any outward sign of his surprise.
“Cadet Uhura is not my girlfriend,” he says calmly. “She is indeed one of my TAs, however, and I believe she can handle a class.”
He is fairly certain that’s an understatement. Those two times Spock asked Nyota to step in, he got the distinct impression that his students were much more intimidated by her than they had ever been by him.
“Fantastic,” Number One says with her trademark dry sarcasm. “Then get your things, we’re going out.”
“Spock, I really don’t have all day.”
Spock’s instinct of self-preservation tells him that it’s a very bad sign to have her eyes narrow at him like that. He gets up to his feet hastily and goes to find Nyota. She is delighted to help him out, and Spock thinks not for the first time that he is incredibly fortunate to have met her, because she doesn’t ask any questions, just takes the news in stride, even though her eyes dart toward Number One with undisguised curiosity.
Instead of the Academy parking lot, Number One takes him to the main entrance where her hover bike is parked, because clearly she doesn’t believe in ground rules of any kind and Academy Security probably have a good sense of self-preservation, too. Spock has heard about Number One’s preferred means of transport from Pike, but he has never seen the bike before, and uninterested as he generally is in such matters, he pauses because it is a sight to behold. T’Pol, he reflects, would probably be jealous.
Number One mounts the bike gracefully, freezing the technician circling around with a PADD with her icy-blue stare, and looks at Spock across her shoulder.
“Are you waiting for an RSVP or something?”
Spock unfreezes from his staring fit and climbs up behind her, all too aware of the numerous spectators around them. Gingerly, he puts his hands on her waist, and she slams the ignition like it’s going out of style. Spock barely manages to register all the gasps and whistles, before it’s all wind, wind, and even more wind. Number One, he discovers, doesn’t believe in general safeties, either.
Number One’s driving style is probably the main reason for the road police having the worst kind of nightmares ever. Spock tries to calculate the exact number of traffic regulations she is currently breaking, but abandons the endeavor all too soon, because clearly, after one hundred it stops to matter. He thinks that she in any case outranks him, and doesn’t raise any objections. Not that she’d listen to them anyway.
She takes them out of town and abandons the road, flying along the shore line. Spotting a deserted, wild beach, she descends and brings the bike to a complete stop. Figuring they have arrived at their planned destination, Spock slides down.
“Well?” Number One turns to him and miraculously, she smiles. “How was the ride?”
Spock lifts an eyebrow. “Disappointing,” he says. “Given the rate of our acceleration, I was expecting us to go to warp.”
She chuckles and slides off the bike into the grayish sand, too. “Smartass.”
Spock follows her as she walks toward the water edge, wind tugging at her raven black hair. She isn’t all that tall, he realizes suddenly. Her built is slim to the point of fragile, in fact, and Spock wonders why he has never noticed this before. Perhaps the reason hides in the aura of authority and confidence Number One projects. She’s never just an appearance, but always a presence.
“Chris told me you took the job,” she says without preamble.
She pauses, gazing at the ocean, and speaks without turning to look at him.
“I won’t demean you by offering any kind of advice,” she says. “I know I don’t have to teach you how to do your job. And I’m glad it’s you, in fact, because I don’t trust anyone else on that list.”
“I am grateful for your approval.”
She glances at him sideways. “I didn’t haul you all the way here to give you my approval,” she says. “You know, by every rule of engagement that I know, I should hate you. Or at the very least, dislike you.”
Spock clasps his hands behind his back. “You have never been emotional.”
“No.” She purses her lips. “I haven’t. But that’s not the reason.” She frowns lightly, focusing on the blurry line of the horizon. “Chris has always been a dreamer, Spock. But you are probably the only dream he’s ever allowed himself to chase. Chris doesn’t believe in white fences and apple trees.”
As peculiar as the metaphor is to him, Spock doesn’t pretend not to understand the essence of it. He peers at Number One’s chiseled profile, serene and determined. And sad.
“To be honest,” she says, “I don’t believe in white fences and apple trees, either.” She looks at Spock squarely. “But I want to try. And I want to make him try, too. Maybe we won’t have an apple garden. But I think – I want to believe that between the two of us we can at least build a house.”
Spock ponders her words silently for a while. He, too, is watching the ocean.
“I offered him an ‘apple garden’ once.”
Number One smiles, sad and quiet. “I know. But you are not a gardener, Spock.”
“Neither are you,” he remarks calmly. “And for that matter, neither is he.”
She is quiet for a moment. “I’m closer to his age,” she says at last. “We fought the same battles. We both come from the time when the stars were younger. We looked at them through the same eyes.”
Spock doesn’t answer.
“There comes a time,” Number One says, “when every space hound longs for a warm furnace, a gentle hand, and a home cooked meal.”
They both shift at the same time, and their eyes meet.
“Bring him home,” she says. “And if we do build that house, you’ll have a place to return to when your time comes, too.”
Spock doesn’t think there are any words in any language he knows that he could offer in reply, so he simply nods at her once, curt and deliberate. She smiles her fleeting smile again and runs her fingers softly along his cheek.
“It won’t be easy for you,” she tells him in her normal voice, as they walk back toward the bike. “Being the first officer. It’s the shortest straw in the lot and you’ll always be the one who draws it. You’ll walk in shadows. When you do your job well, the crew will get the laurels. When the crew screws up, you’ll be the one to blame. Every unpopular command decision will be your fault, and you’ll have to protect the captain’s image in the eyes of the crew sometimes by blackening your own. The captain’s primary responsibility is to the mission, yours – to the ship and crew. You’ll be working your ass off to see to the crew’s needs, but when they die on a mission, they will die for the captain, not for you. They will want to make him proud, not you. You’ll be a buffer, a vent, and a punching bag more often than not.”
“A grim prospect,” Spock remarks casually. “But I suspect a realistic one.”
“Oh yes.” Number One nods. “Very much so. But there is a silver lining. Every captain in the fleet was a first officer once. Can’t get to the big chair skipping that one. It teaches appreciation like nothing else does. You two alone will know the full weight that the other’s carrying. And while he’s the one making decisions, you’ll be the one who’ll have to keep him honest and to set him right when he slips. And if that means taking one or a dozen in the face, then that’s what you’ll have to do, too.”
“Have you ever done that?” Spock asks, with resigned curiosity, watching Number One mount her bike. “Taken one in the face?”
She looks at him and suddenly grins like a schoolgirl. “Chris would never hit me,” she admits. “But metaphorically speaking, yes, Spock. Many, many times.”