Title: Don't Stop Believing 3.5/?
Pairings/Characters: Kirk/Spock pre-slash, McCoy, Uhura, Sulu, OC
Warnings: historical refs at loose, also contains a ref to 2.9
Summary: The trial is over. Kirk and Spock need to talk. Spock is dealing with the aftermath of -- everything.
Notes: Please visit the Master Post for complete story navigation/paitings/ratings.
Spock isn’t sure how he has ended up at the same bar where he had overheard Cadet Mitchell boasting the previous Christmas. He seems to have a vague recollection of Nyota’s arms around him as she yelled, 'Never put me through this again!' in the courtroom while McCoy and Sulu were clapping Kirk’s shoulders with nearly enough force to knock him over. Nobody asked him if he wanted to go or not – that part Spock seems to remember well enough.
Yet here he is, sitting at the table, watching Nyota sway slowly with Sulu on the dance floor. The mourning for the victims of Nero’s massacre is still in effect, but the bartender has found something quiet and sentimental for them to dance to and none of the other patrons seem to mind. McCoy sits at the bar, surveying an even row of shot glasses in front of him with an admirable amount of concentration.
There is, in fact, some kind of alcoholic drink sitting in front of Spock on the table as well. He tried to protest, but McCoy growled at him. Something about Spock being half-human and that it wouldn’t bite. Spock doesn’t mind all that much. He doesn’t enjoy the taste, but at the moment, he doesn’t really care. Besides, McCoy isn’t exactly checking on his progress.
Spock naturally isn’t drunk, but he’s so tired that the effects are almost the same. He winces when Kirk drops to a chair next to him.
“Missed me?” Kirk asks with a pale ghost of his usual smirk.
Spock notes that the captain appears to have lost his dress uniform jacket at some point. His hair is tousled as if he’d been running his hand through it – or someone else had. He appears to be flushed and his eyes are slightly bloodshot. Kirk suddenly snaps his fingers in front of Spock’s face, and Spock jerks back reflexively.
“I really don’t react well to silent treatment,” Kirk says, pouring himself a glass of the dark blue liquid that Spock is drinking. “Are you all right? You haven’t said a word to me after this mess was over.”
“You and Ms. Shaw appeared to be somewhat preoccupied.”
“She’s not a bad person, Spock,” Kirk points out and knocks back a shot. The vile taste of alcohol makes him cringe. “She was just doing her job.”
“I said nothing to dispute this.”
“Well, I’m free now. So?”
Spock glances up at him. “What do you require me to say?”
“I don’t know,” Kirk says in frustration. “‘Thank you’?”
“Right,” Kirk grumbles. “And I thought I felt bad before.” He peers over at the bar almost wistfully. “You didn’t make it easy, you know.”
“Why did you do it?” Spock asks, watching him.
Kirk shrugs. “Why wouldn’t I do it?”
“That is not an answer.”
“Maybe I don’t have one.”
Spock stares at him. “By coming to my defense, you have placed your own career at risk. You indicated previously that being captain of the Enterprise is very important to you, yet you challenged the board of three admirals, putting your position in jeopardy.” He pauses. “I find it hard to believe that you had no motive.”
Kirk rubs at his eyes tiredly. “If I told you I really liked you, would you believe me?”
Spock raises an eyebrow. “No.”
Kirk sighs. “Figures. Look.” He glances up at Spock with a frown. “What they were doing to you was wrong, okay? You didn’t deserve any of it and they were trying to use you and it was just – nasty. They give me a fucking medal, which you deserve just as well, but they send you away to a penal colony? And for what, exactly? Having a heart? I couldn’t stand for it.”
“I see,” Spock says. “You were exercising your sense of justice.”
Kirk raises a glass in salute. “What you said.”
Spock watches him down another glass. Out of some strange sense of solidarity, he drinks down his own. When he looks up, he finds Kirk’s eyes on him.
“Listen,” Kirk says, sounding unusually intent, “I need to know something.”
“What would that be?” Spock asks.
“I need to know... I need to know if you hate me. At all.”
Spock feels both his eyebrows disappear into his hairline. “I beg your pardon?”
Kirk sighs again and reaches to refill their glasses. He spills the liquid a little when pouring Spock’s.
“Back on the ship,” he says, voice quiet, “when everything happened, I saw you – I guess you could say I saw you at your worst. You were emotional, and out of control, and doing things you wouldn’t normally do, and just – whatever. And I was mad at you half the time, and the other half just...” He trails off and falls silent for a moment, gathering his thoughts. “And I still think you’re all right, you know?” he mutters, staring at his hands. “If that was your worst, then you’re someone I could – someone I could work with, and... You’re – you’re just – all right. And I guess I wasn’t at my best, either, what with being mean to you and what not. So I really need to know if you hate me for that.” He pauses, biting his lip. “Or just – hate me.”
Later Spock would wonder how it was even possible to make out anything within this rambling and faltering speech, but that would be later. Right now, he’s painfully aware of the tension with which Kirk awaits his answer. Spock opens his mouth before he is actually ready to speak.
“I do not hate you,” he says.
Kirk looks up at him quickly. “Because Vulcans don’t hate?”
“We do,” Spock says flatly. He’s definitely too tired to be having this conversation. “I do. I hate Nero.” Is he actually drunk? “I feel so much hatred toward him that if he were alive I would have stopped at nothing to cease his existence.”
“Oh,” Kirk exhales. Closing his mouth, he swallows. “Oh. Well.”
“I do not hate you,” Spock repeats. “In fact” – he hesitates to conduct a brief introspection – “I do not harbor any negative emotions toward you. I find you undisciplined and impatient. You are capable of brilliance, yet you allow your ambition and ego to define your actions. You are capable of incredible kindness and incredible cruelty, even though I believe you are not cruel by nature. You are strong-willed to the point of stubbornness, but your confidence inspires people to follow you. I am convinced that those qualities will allow you to become an excellent starship captain, if you elect to temper your impulses with reason and logic.”
Kirk blinks, having stared at Spock this whole time and seemingly without breathing.
“Oh – okay,” he says, swallowing again. “Okay. So basically, according to you, I’m a slightly more polished version of Attila.”
“Not exactly,” Spock allows. “Though I confess that I did once compare you to a human who showed explicit lack of respect for cultural artifacts, it was not Attila. However, now that you mention it...”
“How did I become part of this conversation?” Kirk asks the space around him miserably. “Shoot, Mr. Spock, while I can still take it like a man.”
“Alexander,” Spock tells him.
“Alexander?” Kirk blinks. “The one from Macedonia? How do you figure?”
“He, too, was prone to changing the conditions of the problem and was rather straightforward about it.”
“Changing the conditions...” Kirk repeats in confusion, but comprehension dawns momentarily. “The Gordian Knot!” he exclaims excitedly, making heads turn toward them. “You compared your damn test to the Gordian Knot and me to – oh, Spock!” And he suddenly laughs.
“I fail to see the cause of your amusement,” Spock says, making sure to frown. Kirk’s mirth is disturbingly infectious.
“Nothing, really.” Kirk shakes his head, still chuckling, and reaches to pat Spock’s arm. “It’s just that you meant that as an insult, but I feel flattered.”
“Predictably illogical.” Spock nods. “And I did not mean that as an insult.”
“No, I suppose you didn’t,” Kirk says, and gives Spock’s arm a squeeze before releasing. “God, I’m wasted.” He is, Spock can tell. “I should probably go get Bones while he’s still capable of walking, because there’s no way in hell I’m carrying him anywhere.”
Spock watches him get to his feet. It takes two attempts to actually get there.
“You know” – Kirk turns to him suddenly – “as long as we’re exchanging character references here, you remind me of someone, too.”
“Indeed.” He doesn’t have the energy to make it a question.
“Yes.” Kirk nods anyway, dropping his head all the way down before jerking it up abruptly. “Ever heard of King Arthur?”
Spock blinks. “I remind you of King Arthur?”
“Merlin, Spock.” Kirk smiles at him dazedly. “You remind me of Merlin.”
He keeps muttering about wise men and wise asses until McCoy comes stumbling to their table to collect him and bids Spock goodnight.
The house is old. Its wooden floors squeak as he enters, even though Spock has a very light footstep. His weight is considerable, as Vulcans have higher body mass index, but he has always had a light gait. He can still hear his father’s voice in his head: ‘Sneaking up is undignified, Spock.’ His mother only laughed and made feline-like noises at him.
It was a long time ago.
The floor squeaks. The last time Spock had been here, he was only four years old. He and Amanda had spent three summer months here while Sarek was conducting negotiations with the Cardassians on behalf of the Federation. It was an interesting summer.
Spock looks around, noting how dusty the house is. No one has lived here for a very long time. Amanda’s parents died before Spock was born, and her sister who used to live here has long since moved off the planet. Spock hasn’t seen any of his mother’s relatives for approximately twelve years now, but he isn’t here seeking a family reunion. He just needs some time to be alone, and this house where his mother had grown up seems ideal.
Spock puts his bag on the floor carefully and walks over to the kitchen, searching for the environmental controls. He has already activated the generator in the cellar, so it’s not a surprise when the panel blinks at him. It’s a very old, outdated model, but it’s still in working condition. Spock taps several commands, programming the house systems for automatic cleaning of the rooms. Satisfied with the low hum the equipment makes, he walks out into the garden, allowing the machinery to do its work.
The garden is beautiful but completely wild. If the house were any closer to the neighborhood, it would have stood out like a thorn in the neatly trimmed flesh of meticulously cut lawns and absurdly accurate bushes.
The sharp, fresh odor of honeysuckle drifts in the air, mixing up with the head-spinning smell of jasmine and the delicate scent of wild roses. Their tender, almost unnaturally pink flowers tease unashamedly, peering out of the omnipresent embrace of ivy that covers the fence and most parts of the south wall. The shadow it was never supposed to create had probably killed some light-loving plants, but instead, pansies of every color gleam shyly at each other and butterfly orchids are gathered here and there in small circles, like feudal kingdoms in the barbaric lands. The old chestnut tree is presiding over the savagely blooming wilderness, its white candle-like inflorescences glowing with their own brand of light in the evening air. Spock inhales deeply and closes his eyes.
This has never been a place he thought of as home, and truth be told, neither did Amanda. She had left this house at an early age, impatient to explore the world and then the galaxy. But she had always spoken of this house as a family house, and right now it was the closest place Spock had to a connection with the world that was forever gone.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I just—”
Spock turns around to see a young woman standing at the garden door who’s looking at him in puzzlement and confusion. She has short, strawberry-blond hair and light brown eyes, widened at the moment as she peers at Spock questionably. And it’s a little surprising, given that he hasn’t seen her for a quarter of a century, but he recognizes her at once.
She smiles uncertainly and takes a couple of steps toward him, eyes roaming over his features as they seek anything familiar.
“Sorry; do I know you?”
Spock realizes suddenly that he has missed two of his regular haircuts, and apparently, combined with his human-style clothing, it’s an effective enough disguise.
“The last time I saw you,” he says very deliberately, “you were wearing a green taffeta dress which you were not supposed to see until your sixth birthday, but found anyway. You insisted on calling a sloppy exhibition of dandelions in your hair a crown.” He pauses. “You were also dripping wet. From falling into the pond, I believe.”
Her eyes widen even more as she looks at him, her smile shifting from uncertain to incredulous, and when Spock tilts his head to the back a little, allowing his hair to slide away, revealing his ears and eyebrows, it becomes radiant with delight.
“Spock?” she breathes out excitedly. “Oh my God, it’s really you!”
And before he can take any further action, she flings her arms around him and all but knocks the wind out of him in a fierce hug.
“Oh my God, oh my God, it’s really you, I can’t believe this!” she exclaims happily. Suddenly, she releases him and all but springs away, looking embarrassed. “Sorry, oh God, I’m so sorry, no touching, I remember, I just – you’re here, and—”
“It is all right,” Spock assures her, relieved that she let go of him but not offended.
“I thought I saw someone pull over this lane,” she says in her rapid manner of speech, which apparently hasn’t changed. “Knew the house was empty, wanted to warn in case someone took the wrong turn or something, but I couldn’t guess it was you, and...” She trails off, and then looks up at him mortified. “God, I’m being tactless, aren’t I? I am so sorry for your loss, Spock.”
“Thank you.” He inclines his head politely. “As for you being tactless, it is gratifying to know that some things do not change with the passage of time.”
She grins and punches his arm. “You’re still insufferable, Sprite.”
Spock very nearly smiles at the resurrection of his childhood nickname. “You know, my mother—” He pauses, expecting a pang of pain. When it never comes, he continues. “She called me that for years afterwards whenever I – misbehaved.”
“Nooo,” Lena drawls in feigned horror, ruined by her grin. “Well, my mom used to call me Toad Queen for years after I took a swim in that pond, so we’re even.”
“Hardly.” Spock lifts an eyebrow. “You fell into the pond through no fault of mine.”
She pouts. “You refused to get me a water lily!”
“The flower would not have survived the transition—”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” She sticks her tongue out at him. “You really haven’t changed, Spock. Ever the romantic.”
“How is” – Spock frowns slightly, recalling – “Mr. Tobin?”
Lena chuckles. “I can’t believe you remember Mr. Tobin.” She shakes her head and sighs. “He passed away when I was fifteen. The saddest day of my life right there. He was the sweetest friend I’ve ever had.”
“He was an impressive and well-tempered animal,” Spock agrees, remembering the solid form of the Andorian pony.
“And he was bright blue.”
She grins. “You know, I managed to track one of his offspring and bought it for my daughter. She’s completely in love with him.”
Spock’s eyebrows arch. “You have a child?”
Lena’s smile is both shy and fiercely proud. “I have three,” she says. “Two boys and a girl.” She sighs wistfully, but without any real sadness. “I guess I’m boring like this. I married Johnny when I was nineteen, and since then I’ve been a happy wife and a mother, and well, a botanist.” She squints at Spock. “I’ve never even been off planet. God, I must seem so primitive to you.”
“You are not primitive,” Spock says pensively. “You are – I believe there is a human expression – the salt of the earth? It is for people like you that others go into space.”
She is looking at him with an expression he cannot identify. “That is the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me about my ‘career’ choice,” she tells him. Her face suddenly brightens. “Hey, I’ve seen the holo of you once on the news. Couple of years ago, I think. You won a Nobel Prize or something?”
“A Zee Magnee Prize,” Spock corrects. It suddenly seems to him that the event in question had happened in some other life to someone else.
“Always knew you’d be a know-it-all,” Lena teases, giving him a once-over. “By the way, I don’t recall you wearing jeans in that holo.”
Spock nods, glancing absently at the stone-washed material hugging his hips. He seems to have developed a preference for human clothing during his off duty hours. He’s never before noticed that.
“That would have been inappropriate,” he says. “It was an official occasion.”
“So you, uh – you plan to stay?”
He frowns slightly. “I have been granted an obligatory one-month leave,” he says grimly. “For reasons that elude me. I found myself willing to spend it on Earth before I leave for New Vulcan.”
Her face dims, and she reaches to touch his arm, but stops just short of it. “I’m sorry,” she says quietly. “I can’t imagine what it must be like to have lost... so much.”
Spock doesn’t answer, because what can he say to that? It’s a little surreal, in fact. People expect him to be stricken with grief, yet all he feels is a sense of dull apathy. His emotional control has been in tatters, and yet he doesn’t want to weep, he doesn’t want to tear his hair out, he doesn’t want to end his own existence. In short summary, now that he’s allowed to feel, he seems to have no emotions left.
“Well,” Lena starts awkwardly. “I’d better get going. Lunch for the kids, and well...” She trails off helplessly. “I’ll be seeing you around, I guess?”
“It is possible,” Spock agrees. He doesn’t have any particular plans at the moment. He probably won’t be spending all his time in the house, so Lena’s assumption is logical.
“You know,” she says suddenly, “my husband is an aquabiologist. He’ll be happy to give you a tour of the lake any time you want.”
“I shall bear that in mind,” Spock inclines his head politely. “Thank you.”
She nods, smiles shyly at him again, and leaves.
The month he spends in his mother’s old summer house is very quiet and strangely restless. Spock tries to catch up on his scientific research, but even the most fascinating articles fail to hold his attention for long. He tries to reignite his interest by skimming through various scientific fields at once, but that isn’t really effective, either. His meditation is empty and fruitless, because there are no emotions for him to deal with. He wanders around the house restlessly, picking at things and scrolling through books.
He can’t understand himself and it frustrates him to no end. While still in San Francisco, with the trial’s aftermath and everything, he only wanted for everyone to leave him alone. Now that they had, he wishes they did not give up so easily. He longs for company, but doesn’t answer Nyota’s comm messages which she invariably sends once a day. He enjoys reading them and that one day she doesn’t send one, he’s actually upset, but at the same time, he can’t bring himself to answer.
He wants for people to be around, but when they are around, he wants to be alone, because their sympathy is taxing. Among other things he can’t explain, it makes him feel guilty for not suffering. They offer him all kinds of comfort as if he is an invalid, but he’s perfectly healthy – too perfectly, in fact. His sleep is undisturbed by nightmares, and his appetite is within its normal parameters. He doesn’t flinch whenever someone reminds him of the fate of his homeplanet, only cringes at the looks of horror and compassion they send his way.
He doesn’t understand his own reactions, and it annoys him. For the first time, it occurs to him that if this were what he would be like if he were fully human, he wouldn’t make a particularly good one.
He ends up spending most of his days in an old hover boat that belongs to Lena’s husband, who is indeed a consummate researcher of the lake fauna. John isn’t a man of many words, and that suits Spock just fine. The two men are most comfortable studying various types of frogs and talking about carps’ spawning habits and pikes’ mating riots. Spock takes up diving under John’s instruction, and together they set up holo cams at the lake’s bottom to study the life of the deep-water creatures.
Spock is steadily ignoring the news broadcasts, totally uninterested in whatever’s happening in the Federation. But by the end of the second week, he receives a message from Doctor McCoy regarding Admiral Pike. It’s sparse and puzzling, but Spock believes he gets the gist of it.
Awake. Released for light duty. Pissed like you wouldn’t believe.
Two weeks later, Spock says goodbye to John and Lena and heads back to San Francisco without a clear idea of what his future will be like or even of what he wants it to be.