Title: Don't Stop Believing 4.7/?
Pairings/Characters: Kirk/Spock pre-slash, ensemble
Notes: For detailed story summary/navigation/word count, please visit the Master Post.
Please don't hurt me? Pretty please? Bear in mind whose POV it is. I swear I have an explanation for this. Plus, it's not impossible that the full Pike/N1 talk will be released at some point.
By the time Nyota finds him, he has long since calmed down. It is somewhat disconcerting how quickly his control restores itself when Kirk isn’t around to push him.
“I heard about what happened with Garrovick,” Nyota says cautiously, lowering herself to the deck beside Spock. The Observation Deck is empty but for the two of them, and her words, while spoken in a normal voice, are robbed of volume by the dominating silence. Spock feels her eyes on him, but doesn’t react.
“Did you really have to dress him down like that?” Nyota asks quietly. “The crew kind of hates you right now.”
Spock purses his lips, as if to shrug. “Then it is fortunate that my function here is not to make the crew happy with me.”
“Yeah, well.” She bites her lip, folding her hands in her lap nervously. “Still. It’s pretty bad.”
Spock doesn’t comment. She sighs. “Why did you do it? I mean, you had to know that wasn’t his fault.”
“Then I don’t understand. You were my instructor for three years, Spock. I’ve never known you to be anything but fair.”
He turns to glance at her. “I am not an instructor anymore, Nyota. This is not the Academy. The mistakes are not theoretical, and I do not have the luxury of being fair – only efficient.”
She looks as if he slapped her, and Spock suppresses a sigh. The crew is so professional that sometimes he forgets how young they really are, and that this is their first deep-space assignment. There are things not taught in classrooms – a lot of things.
“I was aware that Lieutenant Garrovick was not responsible for the captain’s decision. I was aware that reprimanding him would make me unpopular.”
“Because I do not care for popularity. I must ensure the captain’s safety.” He holds her eyes calmly. “Lieutenant Garrovick might not harbor any positive feelings for me at the moment, but the next time there is an emergency, there will be one more person to stand up to Kirk and prevent him from killing himself.” He turns back toward the viewport. “Knowing our captain as you and I do, you have to realize that there could never be enough people to do that.”
It takes Nyota several moments to digest this. She shifts uncomfortably next to Spock. “I’m pretty sure Kirk just thought you were trying to show everyone you’re more competent than him.”
Spock feels a pang of bitter amusement. “I am intimately familiar with the captain’s thoughts on the matter.”
He must have let something slip, because she frowns at him. “It’s not funny, Spock. Even if I get what you’re doing, it still looks like you’re just trying to piss people off on purpose, and… it’s not pretty out there.” She rubs her forehead tiredly. “You wouldn’t believe the things I have to listen to about you. It’s ugly, Spock.”
He considers her for a moment in silence, then inclines his head slightly. “I must ask your forgiveness, Nyota. I failed to take into account that my actions would affect you.”
She blinks and goes suddenly very still. “What do you mean?”
“I have found... solace in our friendship. Yet, being considered close to me, you are forced to endure the crew’s displeasure with me by association. It was selfish of me to maintain our relationship, knowing you will have to share some of my—”
“Shut up,” she cuts him off, voice ringing with fury. “Do you honestly think that I’m only here because the crew’s been giving me shit because of you? Do you think I’m that shallow – to leave you all alone just because it’s getting tough? Is that what you think of me?”
“I don’t give a damn about what they say about me. I was worried about you, Spock.”
“I am aware. It is unfortunate.”
“Unfortunate?” She stares at him. “Spock, I have a feeling you’re trying to tell me something, but I’m just not sure what it is. If it’s a problem that I care for you, then tell me, and I’ll leave you alone. But if you’re trying to push me away for my own sake, forget it. Nobody forces me to stand by you. I make my own choices.”
“That was never in dispute.”
“Then what was?”
He looks at her, searching for elusive words, for any means to explain. “You are not my wife,” he says finally. “Nor a family member. You should not be subject to the same treatment I receive. It would not be fair.”
She blinks. “Spock... what in the hell are you—”
“You have no obligation to me.”
Nyota regards him for a few long moments, before gritting out, “You are seriously fucked up in the head, you know that?” She shakes her head in disgust. “You really think the only reason anyone would have to stick to you is if they are legally obligated to do so?”
Spock gives her an eyebrow. “I am unable to discern any reason for which any sane person would do so voluntarily.” He purses his lips. “It is not personal, Nyota – I am simply an inconvenient person to be associated with. It would be impractical.” He pauses. “And illogical.”
She rolls her eyes and shakes her head again, an enigmatic look splayed across her face. “Well, lucky for you, I’m neither sane nor logical. So I’ll be seeing you around, convenient or no.”
He watches her go, and thinks that he will likely never comprehend the complexity of the human mind.
It doesn’t help that they are ordered to put their current mission on hold and return to Earth three days later. Three days Spock spent telling himself that this impeccable icy correctness and polite, strictly formal conversation serves his purposes perfectly. He didn’t join this crew to make friends, after all – he joined them to give the captain a chance he wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. Being useful to Kirk as an officer should be good enough.
Kirk doesn’t so much as look at Spock when they receive their orders to turn back, but Spock can feel the captain stiffening, the lively expression on his face closing up short. Alpha shift is unusually quiet that day, as if everyone is highly aware of the tension spreading from the central chair. Spock tries to ignore it, but when he finds himself alone with Kirk in the turbolift several hours later, he cannot pretend any longer.
Definitely not when the captain brings the elevator to a halt and looks at Spock with carefully guarded eyes.
“Is this your doing?”
“Don’t play ignorant,” Kirk says with a grimace. “This – us being ordered back without so much as an excuse. Is this your doing?”
Spock clenches his hands firmer behind his back, trying to appear nonchalant. “I have not been previously aware of our new orders, if that is what you are implying, sir.”
Kirk studies him, head tilted back slightly, eyes narrowing. “That doesn’t exactly answer my question, does it?”
“You are asking if I have orchestrated our return to Earth at this time?” Spock lifts an eyebrow. “You are overestimating the level of my influence on the admiralty.”
A slow, unpleasant smile taunts the corners of Kirk’s lips. “I’ve come to know, Mr. Spock, that there is no such thing as overestimating you.”
Spock tenses, trying not to show it. “Why would I want to turn us around at this time?”
“I don’t know.” Kirk shrugs, his unnerving, menacing smile still there. “Maybe I’ve finally managed to piss you off enough.”
“I am not your keeper, Captain. I am here to provide assistance.”
Kirk laughs, quiet and sharp. Spock is forcibly reminded of the way Kirk laughed in the Gorn’s face a second before receiving a smashing blow in the face from him on that one occasion they were supposed to be on shore leave and ended up in the middle of an armed conflict.
“I will have all departments provide accurate status reports by oh-eight-hundred tomorrow,” Spock says, seeing no logic in continuing the previous direction the conversation has taken.
Kirk sobers abruptly. “Yeah.” He reaches to release the hold on the turbolift. “You do that, but I want them ready by zero-hundred tonight.”
Spock opens his mouth to argue. The timeframe he suggested is optimal for all departments that would not be forced to abandon all projects in favor of paperwork. But Kirk’s gaze is cool and slicing and expecting Spock to challenge. Spock purses his lips stubbornly.
“As you wish, sir.”
He will have to assist them personally, and he knows that department heads tend to dislike any unnecessary intervention, taking it as a signal of distrust from their superiors. Spock has been a department head long enough to know that, even as a Vulcan, he is not immune to such treatment, which is easily mistaken for disapproval.
But Kirk has given him little choice, and Spock will have to comply. He knows the department heads will blame him for micromanagement and meddling, probably earning him more accusations in ‘Vulcan arrogance’ and ‘superiority’ and ‘mistrust toward incompetent humans.’ At least he could ask Pechalat to take care of Sciences, Spock muses gloomily. But he can already picture Scott’s resentful mien or McCoy’s outrage. Spock thinks of Nyota and almost sighs.
“A problem, Commander?”
Spock looks back at Kirk steadily. “No problem, sir.”
“Good.” Kirk nods briskly, striding past Spock out of the lift. “I will expect an abridged version from you by twenty-three-hundred.”
Spock watches his retreating back, reminding himself that it is Kirk’s job to push his crew. It’s Spock’s job to make sure they can pull through it.
What wouldn’t Spock have given for the situation to be as simple as that right now.
Kirk was aware of Spock’s orders – it was one of the conditions Spock set to Nogura before accepting the position. He never meant to be deceiving anyone. He informed Kirk of the situation hours after he had been appointed Kirk’s XO. He expected Kirk to be angry, but the captain merely smiled carelessly and waved him off.
‘I knew they’d be keeping close tabs on me one way or another,’ he said. ‘I’m just glad it’s you I have to impress and not them. Not that it’s any easier, of course, but I beat your no-win once. I’ll do it the second time if it kills me.’
Spock remembers thinking that the captain has accepted the situation perhaps too easily and it hadn’t rung true. But Kirk seemed so sincere that it never occurred to Spock to doubt him in this particular regard. And Kirk had never previously doubted Spock’s loyalty.
Spock stops in his tracks abruptly.
Is it that Kirk had really never doubted his loyalty before, or is it that he had merely never voiced his doubts?
The thought tickles unpleasantly under his skin, making him feel cold in the climate-controlled environment. Spock isn’t prepared for how much he’s troubled by it, almost chagrined. This professional connection between them, the one they both took painstaking efforts to forge, has been the only thing of which Spock has been confident. To lose it suddenly is extremely disconcerting.
Just as he predicted, the department heads aren’t pleased with his interference at all. But that doesn’t become a real issue until Kirk calls Spock to his ready room the next morning and informs him he is dissatisfied with the reports.
“I didn’t ask you to edit them, or do you think I can’t recognize your hand?” Kirk asks coldly, sliding the PADD over to Spock across the desk. “Your fingerprints are all over these reports, Mr. Spock. I would like to hear my other officers for once, if you don’t mind – or do I need to ask for your permission to do so?”
Spock swallows, forcing himself to hold Kirk’s eyes. “No, sir, you do not.”
“I thought not. Inform them I will expect their reports in six hours. Dismissed.”
This time, none of the department heads even try to conceal their extreme displeasure.
“I have better things to do than rewrite the same damn paper till it makes your pointy ears roll up and down!” McCoy yells, incensed. “And I don’t care much for your deadlines, either! We’re arriving back to Earth in four days, so what’s with the goddamn urgency? Are you trying to score extra points with Jim or something? Ain’t gonna work at my expense!”
Spock is nowhere close to finding an argument that would convince the doctor, when he feels someone’s presence at his side.
“It’s really important for you, isn’t it?” Chapel asks, peering at his face. “Don’t worry - I’ll let him vent a little before I make him get to it. You’ll have it in time, Commander.”
She smiles and disappears after the fuming CMO faster than Spock can understand what has just happened.
The Engineering deck greets Spock with icy silence, the edginess of the crew’s gazes scathing Spock as he informs Scott. The Chief Engineer glares at him, then turns to his people.
“Oi, lads - ye heard the commander here. Lock yer stations and pull out yer PADDs. We’ll be writing lines today.” He glances at Spock pointedly. “Again.”
“Mr. Scott,” Spock says in a pained voice. “You cannot take the entire shift off duty to prepare a status report.”
“Ye just ordered me to.” Scott tilts his chin up defiantly. “And I’m always compliant to orders, Commander. So either make do with the report ye collected yesterday, or ye can man Engineering yerself, for all I care. Sir.”
Spock knows Scott is right in his indignation, but he cannot explain the reasons behind his demands. And it will make a bad situation worse, but now that he’s faced with this insubordination in disguise, he knows he can’t let it go. Not when the entire deck is watching him for signs of weakness.
Spock crosses over to a comm unit. “Lieutenant Pechalat, please shut down science labs four through thirteen and send the available personnel to the Engineering deck at once.”
She sounds hesitant, but is probably curious more than baffled. “Sir?”
Spock locks gazes with Scott. “Apparently, our colleagues in Engineering find it difficult to produce an accurate status report while being burdened with their regular duties, as the rest of the ship’s personnel.”
Scott bristles, but Pechalat chuckles down the line and calls out to the room at large, “Hey, girlfriends, what do you say we pack our lipsticks and candy and go help our little darling babies in Engineering?”
An enthusiastic laughter and whistles – mostly from the males – greet her question, streaming freely down the comm line, and Spock is swept with an urge to find his deputy right this moment and kiss her breathless. Having never had this particular impulse before, he finds it mildly disturbing.
He turns to Scott, eyebrow raised.
“Fine; knock it off,” Scott blurts, as red in the face as his staff. “We’ll get ye yer report. No need for assistance.”
“Do you copy that, Lieutenant?” Spock asks into the comm.
“Yes, sir.” Pechalat’s voice is laughing. “Settle down, girls. No party tonight.”
Spock shakes his head vaguely, unable to comprehend why she is addressing the mostly male contingency of the Science section as ‘girls,’ but knowing better than to ask.
He’s treated to more or less the same reaction in every other department, though no one else dares to oppose him openly as Scott. Lieutenant Garrovick of security is the only one who doesn’t offer any kind of comment, save for a brisk acknowledgement of the order. He stares at Spock with cold, unyielding eyes, and Spock feels suddenly grateful that, as they are not about to launch another landing party, he will not have to entrust his life to this man any time soon.
“You owe me one,” Pechalat tells him, as Spock walks into his lab thirty-four minutes later to check on their progress. “Was it bad?”
He glances at her and pauses. She bites her lip, looking up at him kindly. “It’s okay. Forget I asked.”
“No.” Spock shakes his head. “It is merely that... I understand their reaction.”
“No kidding; so do I.” She snorts. “It’s a good thing you trained us to do five things at a time.”
Spock studies her face carefully. “I am …grateful for your support. I apologize for the inconvenience.”
“It’s okay,” she says with a mild smile, her tone low and deliberate. “I know you have reasons to do it.”
Her smile widens imperceptibly. “Commander, if you don’t mind me saying – some of us know you back from the Academy, and here we’ve been working with you closely for six months.” Her eyes sweep over his face before settling back on his. “You might be the greatest nerd I’ve ever met, but I have never known you to be inconsistent or whimsical. We trust you.”
Spock looks over the quiet room, his eyes lingering on each of his team in turn, before returning to the young woman in front of him. Pechalat has bullied her way into being his personal trainee (one of three on the whole ship), and she seems to be one of the few people onboard who takes his remarks for what they are: a means to improve oneself, not idle criticism. She has been spreading this attitude throughout the Science department, and Spock knows that he has evaded much unnecessary friction within his unit because of her.
“Thank you,” he says, and touches her wrist uncertainly for a moment.
She looks at his hand in surprise, then smiles at him and nods before returning to her work.
Spock heads for Communications, but the head of it intercepts him in the corridor. She’s frowning already, and Spock mentally steels himself – not that it has ever helped with Nyota.
She listens to him, frowning and tapping her foot impatiently against the deck. When he’s done, she raises her eyebrows in disbelief.
“Another report? I thought that was a joke, Spock. You know most of us have been up the whole night doing stuff we were supposed to be doing yesterday instead of filing the first report for you!”
“I am aware of this, Lieutenant.”
“And now you’re telling me it’s not good enough?”
“That is not what I said.”
She eyes him piercingly. “That wasn’t your idea, was it?”
Spock stiffens. “It is of no consequence. I am the one giving the order—”
“For which the rest of the ship will hate your guts, myself included. What, are you afraid to stand up for yourself?”
She makes no effort to reign in her voice, and already people around them are pausing to stare. Spock tries to ignore them, concentrating on Nyota’s irritation.
“It is not a question of my ‘standing up,’” he tells her in an undertone. “The command team must present a united front, whatever internal disagreements we might—”
“Yeah, well, I don’t think it’s right,” she cuts him off sharply, paying no heed to his attempt for being inconspicuous. “This is in no way fair to you, and if you think I’m simply going to shut up and take it, like some spineless people, you’re wrong, Spock!”
She moves to walk past him, and something in Spock snaps. Too many people have tried his patience today.
He reaches out instantly and grabs Nyota’s arm, spinning her back toward him none too gently.
“What the hell are you doing?” she hisses, eyes wide in shock as she struggles to free herself from his hold. “Spock, you’re hurting me.”
“You will not discuss your orders with anyone, Lieutenant, is that clear?” He brings her in a little tighter. “Nor will you share your speculations with any member of this crew. That is an order.”
She glares at him, fierce and defiant. “Yes, sir.” Her voice rings throughout the corridor. “Now let go of me before you break my arm.”
Spock suddenly becomes aware of just how many crewmembers have gathered around them. He unclasps his hand, blinking in shock at his own actions. Nyota sends him another glare before spinning on her heel and marching away, face flushed as an imprint of his fingers begins to protrude on the gentle skin of her upper arm.
Spock does not remember ever feeling so disgusted with himself.
He presents the captain with collected reports precisely on time, and Kirk thanks him both politely and icily, offering no comment.
Later, as Spock goes off shift and goes to his quarters for a quick shower, he discovers Sulu and Chekov waiting for him by either side of his door, wearing equally grave expressions.
“Gentlemen,” Spock greets them calmly, even as he unlocks his door and strides inside. “May I help you?”
They follow him in, looking determined.
“This is strictly off the record, sir,” Sulu informs him grimly.
Spock inclines his head. “Very well.”
“We have come to tell you,” Sulu says, taking a step closer to Spock, “that while we don’t know what it is exactly between you and Uhura—”
“Because it’s none of our business,” Chekov quips in.
“Right. We don’t know and we don’t care, but we won’t let anyone mistreat her, Mr. Spock,” Sulu says pointedly. “Anyone.”
Spock stares at them. For a moment, he has a most bizarre feeling that he has somehow slipped into a dream and everything around him is some twisted variation of reality. And while the look of cold threat might be appropriate on Lieutenant Sulu, Chekov ruins it by default the more he tries. Spock suppresses the stinging urge to shake his head at the utter absurdity of the situation.
He must have been silent too long, because his visitors exchange a nervous glance before Chekov bravely tries to clarify.
“What we mean, Commander, is that if anyone offends the lieutenant, we will have to take measures against them and—”
“Mr. Chekov,” Spock interrupts, because he is Vulcan and has been trained in repressing his reactions, but even he isn’t sure he could keep anything in for much longer if this continues. “Mr. Sulu. I believe you have made your point. If that is all?”
They look at each other again and reply in unison: “Yes, sir.”
“Then I suggest you show yourselves out.”
They do, and Spock doesn’t know if he should laugh or cry. He has never been in a situation that would have called for a fit of hysteria as much as this one does, and he reflects, rather bitterly, that it is unfortunate he has no one to share it with.
The remainder of their journey back to Earth is spent much in the same fashion. Kirk has visibly distanced himself from his XO; Nyota is avoiding Spock; and McCoy glares whenever he spots the Vulcan. Spock notices that people tend to cease talking when he enters the room.
He buries himself in his duties and tries to act as though he doesn’t notice.
Spock finds himself thinking of Christopher more and more as they come closer to Earth. If he were prone to human emotionalism, Spock would say he is being nostalgic. He pulls out the memories of their time together, trying to reconnect with them and wrap them around himself and feel something else, even for a moment – something other than the crushing weight of isolation. He can’t say he quite succeeds, but at least concentrating on it enables him to pull through the day.
The Enterprise assumes orbit around Earth during an early morning in San Francisco. Spock spends the better part of the day arranging the shore leave schedule and deploying the relief crews. His afternoon is stolen by the admiralty, hungry for news despite Spock’s undeniably thorough reports. He and Kirk are debriefed separately, which doesn’t surprise Spock but still makes him cringe internally at the admiralty’s complete lack of tact.
It’s nearly sunset when he finally has a chance to meet Christopher.
Spock doesn’t know what he has been expecting from the meeting, but he knows almost instantly that it isn’t happening. He is pleased to see Christopher; there’s no denying that. But they feel disjointed, somehow. Disconnected.
He has been receiving regular updates from Number One (Pike would never do it) about Pike’s state of health. Before Spock even signed up to join the Enterprise, he had shamelessly used his family connections and his father’s name to make certain Pike would be treated by the best physicians in the Federation, regardless of whether or not they served in Starfleet. Pike wasn’t aware of this, but Number One was, as Spock required her help.
It’s painful still to see Pike struggle, even though they both know he will make a full recovery. Pike has never been one for sitting idly, and Spock feels almost guilty for being assigned to a starship of the line, travelling under the stars that have always been Christopher’s true realm, while Christopher himself is literally grounded to Earth. There’s guilt, compassion, sympathy – but it’s not enough. Spock struggles desperately, but it’s as if there’s a layer of Plexiglas between him and Pike. Spock can see him, but he can’t get to him. And everything they say only serves to make the barrier thicker.
They finally leave the bar, and, as Spock has had the time to pick up his former vehicle, he offers Pike a lift. Pike didn’t sell his apartment, but he doesn’t live there anymore – there isn’t enough room for him and Number One. Pike comments on the change as Spock drives, saying that he could never imagine that, in the end, he’d be the one to move in with a lady, not the other way around. The joke falls flat, as Spock has no comment on the matter.
He walks Pike to the door and exchanges a brief greeting with Number One, but declines an invitation to come inside the house. He doesn’t know how long he stands just outside their house, listening to the sounds of San Francisco at night and trying to recapture the elusive feeling they used to bring him. But the associations are bleak and inert, and Spock finally gets back to his car, only to discover that Pike has forgotten his PADD.
Spock picks it up and strides back toward the house. He raises his hand to chime, but the door opens before him without a sound, the lock obviously trained to recognize him. Spock wants to feel touched by such consideration.
He steps in and freezes involuntarily, listening to the slightly muffled voices coming from the bedroom.
“He’s like a complete stranger,” Pike is saying, and his tone is bitter. “And I’m such a bastard, Number One.”
“He’s still Spock, right? Underneath all that, he’s still the same person. But I was looking at him tonight, and I couldn’t help thinking that if I only just met him, I – I wouldn’t want to get to know him.”
Spock places the PADD on a shelf carefully, and leaves without making a sound.
The reason for the Enterprise being recalled is disclosed the next morning. Both Spock and Kirk are called to Starfleet Headquarters to receive new orders, and Spock can tell Kirk is annoyed by the summons. Spock wants to remind him that it’s not unusual for a captain and first officer to receive orders together, and so Kirk’s competence is definitely not being questioned. But the captain storms out of Admiral Nogura’s office the moment they are dismissed, and it’s abundantly clear from the angrily tense line of his shoulders that he doesn’t welcome company.
Spock, on the other hand, is detained by Admiral Nechayev, who suggests, with a smile as sweet as it is false, that they take a walk along the bay.
“So, how’s it going?”
Spock barely lifts an eyebrow. “I believe you have my reports, Admiral.”
She nods. “I do, but that’s something you write for the whole board. You have a curious style, Commander – praising him without actually praising him.”
“Giving praise is illogical.”
“Unfounded praise, maybe. As I understand it, this is not that case.”
“The board has asked for my opinion on Captain Kirk’s performance. I believe I have been clear in providing it.”
“Quite. But I still want to clarify a few things. For example” – she stops suddenly and rounds on him – “I want to know why you look like shit.”
Spock is taken aback slightly and tries to conceal it. “I believe the focus here is the captain’s performance, not my appearance.”
“You’re the first officer, Mr. Spock. His performance and your appearance could have a closer relationship with each other than you think.”
“With respect, Admiral, I fail to see how.”
“I accessed your logs. Your workload seems to be twice as high as that of Commander Tegrim. He’s the first officer of the Endeavor, your sister ship.”
“I do not believe Commander Tegrim doubles as a Science Officer.”
“No, but Lieutenant Commander Echlar does. She’s serving on the Pollux; and they are far from sitting on their butts smoking kalian, I assure you.”
Spock suppresses a sigh. “If you are suggesting that my workload is influenced by Captain Kirk’s incompetence, nothing could be further from the truth, Admiral. It is not often that he files fewer hours than I do. With all due respect, the missions the Enterprise has completed are over seventy-six percent of D-type, and, given the sheer number of them, our working schedule should be self-explanatory.”
She studies him for a moment, then smiles.
“Just checking. It wouldn’t do if Kirk happened to be a slave driver.”
“Indeed, he is not,” Spock says dryly. “James Kirk is one of the most industrious individuals I have ever met. His devotion to duty is absolute.”
“Glad to hear it.” Her smile remains. “Kirk’s done well, Commander. I hope he continues that way. If he does, then in another six months, we could probably cut his leash. Don’t expect any milk runs in the near future.”
“What will happen in six months, Admiral?”
“Cutting to the chase, are we?” She eyes him pensively. “Let’s just say Nero’s attack has got a lot of people thinking. Starfleet needs changes, Commander. And Admiral Nogura is not the right man to supervise them. He’s a brilliant tactician, but a poor strategist. There will be some personnel changes.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Because I know that you agree with me, and because every Vulcan is a politician at heart. But mostly, of course, because I need you.” She smiles. “Well, Kirk more than you, but I only need him if he’s good enough. And you’re the man to tell me if he has it in him.”
Spock blinks. “Why me? Why would you trust my judgment so much?”
“Because Chris Pike chose you to be his first officer. Don’t flinch, Commander; I know all about your little romance. I also know Chris. If he chose you to be his right hand, then he knew that you had it in you. And I happen to trust Chris.”
Spock feels the wave of a bitter laugh struggling to escape his lips. It is ironic that Pike’s assessment of Spock’s professional qualities weighs so much with this cunning woman as to win Spock a measure of her trust – or, at least, interest – while Pike’s views on Spock as a person have taken such a grim turn.
“It’s a fair solution,” Nechayev goes on evenly. “Kirk gets my full support if I get his, and honestly, Commander, he needs this more than I do.”
Spock knows she’s right. “Why are you so persistent in helping him?”
She looks at him. “Let’s just say that Chris Pike isn’t the only one with connections to the Kirk family.”
“You knew George Kirk?”
She sighs, her face closing. “Why does it always have to be about George? Or Jim, for that matter?”
Spock raises an eyebrow. “Admiral?”
She shakes her head. “Never mind; I don’t have to explain myself to you. But look at the Academy.” She points as if the building hasn’t been there all along. “Seems so prim, doesn’t it? Yet it conceals many sins.”
Her communicator chirps, and she straightens up abruptly. “You are dismissed, Commander. And keep your eyes open during this mission with Kovac – it’s not as simple as the ambassador makes it sound.”
“Admiral.” Spock salutes. She barely nods at him, hurrying back toward the headquarters.
She has left him with a mystery, but Spock is almost sure that she’s left enough clues for him to solve it. He is beginning to understand Arina Nechayev a little better, and almost instantly cautions himself from making this kind of assumption.
He goes to a nearby public library and requests a private terminal. He knows Nechayev knows he will be checking this, but he doesn’t know who else might be watching, so Spock hides his tracks.
He accesses the Academy records of the year 2225. He finds Arina Nechayev listed as a first-year cadet on Command track with minors in Diplomacy and Special Operations. She seemed to be a straight-A student, but her record contains no revelations of what she’s been implying.
On a strike of inspiration, Spock checks her lodgings status. She had been assigned a roommate, one who stayed with her for three years straight up until the final year – which is a record in itself, because usually Academy Housing rotates its cadets more frequently. And yet, Arina Nechayev and Winona Limes had been residing together for three years.
Spock pulls the other woman’s file next to Nechayev’s, his gaze lingering for a moment on two blond girls, young and enthusiastic. He concentrates on Limes, and realizes her features are familiar for a reason. He reads on.
Wynona Limes, class of 2229, major in Engineering, minors in Xenolinguistics and Sciences.
2229, lieutenant (j.g.), station: Starbase 14; position: engineer. Note: marital status changed to married. Husband: George Kirk, lieutenant (j.g.), position: assistant Starbase commander.
2230, addendum to personnel file. Child: George Samuel Kirk, human, male. Requested special permission to reside with family. Permission granted by Starbase commander Wong.
2233, promoted to full lieutenant; station: USS Kelvin; position: assistant chief engineer.
Spock checks more records and finally has the full picture. Arina Nechyev and Winona Limes remained roommates up until the graduating year. Incidentally, George Kirk had been transferred to Winona’s training division around the same time.
‘It conceals many sins,’ Nechayev had said.
Spock frowns. It didn’t matter, in the long run, if the two girls were close friends or lovers. What did matter was that George Kirk’s appearance had brought their close association to an end. Admiral Nechayev admitted to having personal reasons for taking interest in James Kirk’s career. The question now became: is she seeking to help the child of her once best friend, possibly lover, or is she acting out of revenge?
Spock steeples his fingers in thought. The revenge motive seems unlikely. After all, the admiral all but invited him to examine her ties with the Kirk family. She wouldn’t have done it if she thought it would harm her plans. On the other hand, she might count on Spock thinking exactly that, and thus eliminate any suspicions he might have only to ambush him (and Kirk) later. Unlike most highly intelligent humans Spock knows, Nechayev is fully capable of thinking the entire game ahead, not just several moves.
Spock’s head is buzzing with all the implications and possibilities. He desperately wishes for a guide who could explain the complexities of human emotionalism to him, because they make a dangerous cocktail when mixed with politics. But no matter how much Spock longs for someone’s assistance, it doesn’t seem plausible he’ll get any. He could ask Pike, he supposes, but Pike has never been a politician. Pike is becoming one now, Spock suspects, but he’s no match for Admiral Nechayev yet.
Spock has never wanted to talk to T’Pol more in his entire life. But T’Pol is on New Vulcan, completely unavailable. And Spock understands enough of Nechayev’s careful hints to know that this is not the kind of conversation he can have over subspace.
For lack of a better idea, he beams back to the ship. He just needs a moment of quiet reflection or maybe even a moment when he wouldn’t have to think of anything at all. Humankind has never seemed more confusing, and it is definitely the first time when so unimaginably much depends on Spock’s ability to comprehend it – or lack thereof.
The Enterprise is almost empty. The crew has been granted a three-day shore leave, and most of them have seized the opportunity to visit their families. The nervous-looking technician who is conducting the transport all but backs away when Spock looks at him. Spock knows that Mr. Scott has been quite formidable in regards to the interim crew, but Spock has no wish to deal with the matter right now.
He walks to his quarters, wishing for a cup of herbal tea and some quiet time, only to remember that they are conserving power while at space dock, and so the replicator in his quarters will undoubtedly be offline. Spock changes his route toward the rec room instead, recalling which one of those would be powered.
It’s empty when he walks inside but for Doctor McCoy and Nyota, who are talking quietly at the same table. They both glance at Spock as he enters, and he nods in their direction as they return to their conversation. Spock retrieves his beverage and turns to look at them warily. They have no reason to be receptive, and he doesn’t know why he even wants them to be, but – suddenly, the prospect of going to his empty quarters seems almost frightening.
“May I join you?”
They look up at him. McCoy is frowning slightly; Nyota’s gaze is searching. Spock does not know what she sees in him, but her eyes soften noticeably, forgiving.
“Please,” she says.
He nods silently, not wishing to intrude on their conversation or be included in it. He has the strangest wish to just sit near, listening to the even sound of their voices without actually hearing their words. Nyota looks at him speculatively for a moment, and Spock is swept with gratitude for how well she still understands him, because she resumes her conversation with McCoy before the doctor has a chance to ask Spock anything.
Spock stares at her for a moment, wishing he could somehow express how deeply he appreciates her, the kindest heart he has ever met. Nyota doesn’t look at him again, but there’s a small, tender smile playing on her lips that has nothing to do with whatever McCoy’s talking about. Spock sips his tea silently, soaking in the warmth his two companions are emitting. He hadn’t realized how starved he has become for being allowed into someone’s non-hostile presence.
Retrospectively, he thinks he should have known that it was too good to last.
When the captain storms into the rec room, Spock doesn’t react at once. Like a street cat that has finally found a warm spot that no one kicks it from, he’s somewhat slow on realizing his circumstances have changed. He looks up only after McCoy and Nyota fall silent abruptly.
Kirk is standing at the opposite side of the table, glaring at Spock.
“Captain?” Spock rises to his feet; the cup slides treacherously from his hand, landing on the table with a loud clang.
“I hope you’ve had your fun,” Kirk spits, eyes locked on Spock’s as he shakes with barely contained anger. “All those months playing the good guy, telling me you’re not here to spy on me, only to be plotting with the admiralty behind my back – tell me, Commander, do you get off on playing me like a fool?”
“Captain, I do not understand—”
“Oh, don’t give me that – I’m not an idiot, Spock, whatever you might think! You told me you weren’t gonna let one word in those reports that would not be truth, the whole truth and all that shit, so explain to me why I’ve just been spanked for six hours straight like a schoolgirl who’s left her panties in the headmaster’s office? I had to defend every mission, every fucking decision I made! And if only you told me you questioned them continuously in your reports, then maybe I wouldn’t have looked like a goddamn idiot saying they were our decisions, only to be confronted with a piece of paper saying I’m an incompetent piece of shit!”
“Captain!” Spock steps back, aghast. “I supported your decisions, barring two incidents with the Arcturian Order and Weitpoint. You are aware of this.”
“Am I?” Kirk tilts his head, snarling. “Do you honestly think I’ll believe you now? You’ve been lying to me since the day you set foot on this ship!”
“Captain, I do not know in which manner they used my reports to confront you, but I assure you, I gave nothing but a full account of the events the way they occurred.”
“Yeah, well, guess what?” Kirk snaps. “I don’t believe you! They didn’t fuck my brains out like this after the Narada, for God’s sake! They have our logs and they have your reports, Commander, so go on – tell me I’m paranoid for thinking you are responsible for us being ordered here with our tail between our legs!”
“You are,” Spock says, cool anger starting to fill his veins.
“Oh, am I? You asked to be my first officer! You insisted on being included into everything, worming your way into my trust – and I don’t trust people easily, Commander – and I was foolish enough to think sharing life and death with someone would be enough! I trusted you! I was idiot enough to come to think of you as my friend! And after all that, you don’t even have the decency to tell me what you think of me to my face! I asked you straight, and you lied to me!”
“Captain. I have never lied to you.”
“Really? Then tell me, Spock, where were you last night?”
“After you were done with your official interviews that are accessible to me, you had a secret meeting with none other than our dear Admiral Pike. Oh, you hid your tracks well, but, unfortunately for you, I have many friends in San Francisco. That bar you thought was a secret place? Totally isn’t.”
Spock blinks. Kirk rushes on.
“Had a nice evening gossiping about me, did you? And today he doesn’t say so much as a hello to me, but he’s there with the rest of them, grilling me over every time I took a piss in the last six months! I gotta admit, I have no idea if it’s worse to take this shit from him or from you!”
Spock takes a deep breath, steeling himself. He can sense his anger getting rapidly close to the breaking point.
“I do not deny having met with Admiral Pike last night,” Spock says, voice controlled so tightly that the words barely come out. “However, contrary to your egocentric views of the universe, we have not discussed you for any considerable length of time, barring the admiral asking after your wellbeing.”
“Really?” Kirk retorts. “Why all the cloak and dagger routine, then?”
“If you are referring to us meeting in a less public setting, then I assure you, Captain, we had reasons other than concealing the fact from you.”
Kirk’s eyes narrow to slits. “And what reasons would those be?”
Spock’s hands clench into fists.
“Jim,” McCoy says cautiously.
“What?” Kirk snaps, turning for a second toward McCoy and Nyota. “Why are you both staring at me like I’m the last one to get the cookie?”
“Look, Jim, it’s not what you think—”
“It is quite all right, Doctor McCoy,” Spock interrupts icily, eyes locked on Kirk. “Obviously, I am not entitled to privacy where Captain Kirk is concerned.” He draws a tight breath.
“If you must know, Captain, Admiral Pike and I used to be involved in a relationship of sexual nature,” he all but spits. “Albeit having terminated that relationship, he remains one of the three individuals I consider to be family members by extension. Our liaison had not been kept secret after I graduated. If you were not focused so exclusively on yourself, this would not have come as news to you.”
Kirk has gone from nearly apoplectic to gaping at him, mouth hanging open and eyes wide with shock. Spock’s words seem to have drained his anger, rendering him speechless. Spock would rather cut his arm off than be exposed like this at any given time, but he feels inexplicably vindicated by the look of pure astonishment and bafflement on Kirk’s face.
“You and Pike hit it off when you were still a cadet?” McCoy squeaks incredulously to Spock’s left.
Spock ignores him.
“You and Pike?” Kirk seems to have found his voice, just barely. “You and Pike? You’re kidding me, right?”
His incredulity is insulting in a way Spock hasn’t thought possible, and Spock seethes. “Just because I do not fit your parameters for physical attractiveness does not mean that everyone else should share your opinion. Captain.”
“Spock, hold it, I didn’t mean—”
“I find myself distinctly uninterested in what it is you meant. You have called me a liar twice already, Captain. I see no reason to remain here and listen to your continuously irrational insults. This might hurt your fragile human pride, but I assure you that they are not the most inventive ones I have heard aimed at myself.”
He inhales sharply. “I infer that it would be best for me to leave so that you could rediscover your creativity. If you will excuse me.”
He brushes past Kirk and out of the rec room, stunned silence heavy in his wake.