Series: Don't Stop Believing (takes place between Parts IV and V)
Beta: secret_chord25 who is the bestest person ever. <3 All remaining mistakes are mine.
Pairings/Characters: Kirk/Spock pre-slash, McCoy, Uhura, Scott, OFC
Word count: 10 736 for both parts
Warnings: deals with PTSD symptoms and triggers. I don't think there's anything too gruesome in there, but to be safe, here be warned.
Summary: A series of snapshots focusing on Spock's experiences in the two months after his breakdown. Relationships evolve, most notably with a certain starship captain. For full story summary/navigation, please visit the Master Post.
A/N: Why the Interlude? Because this piece didn't really belong with Part IV and it wouldn't fit into Part V. I chose to separate it so that the series would not lose the general sense of consistency, in format if in nothing else. Sorry for the long wait. I try to behave, but I'm my muses' bitch through and through. Enjoy!
Pain wakes up before he does, and Spock stretches on the bed, savoring it for a moment. In the three weeks that have passed since their mission to Arishuh, pain has become his constant companion an incessant presence – like a shadow that follows an inch too close.
Spock welcomes it.
Not that he enjoys the feeling; except, in a way, he does, because it reminds him that he can feel again. As long as he feels this pain, he knows he can feel, and slowly, hesitantly, other emotions start resurfacing through the veil of his grief. It is illogically gratifying. He never thought he would be so unimaginably relieved to have his conflicted, unruly, irrational feelings back.
Ironically enough, Spock’s breakdown on Arishuh serves to strengthen Starfleet’s position. Immensely grateful for his daughter being saved, Kovac’s informant insists on sharing his data not only with the Torian, but with Kirk and Spock as well, much to the ambassador’s displeasure. With the cards laid out on the table like that, Kovac has no other option but to make the best of a bad bargain, and signs a preliminary trade agreement with the Federation to save his face. Captain Kirk does end up in Med Bay with a case of food poisoning that week, but, other than that, the mission is a success no one had been expecting.
Now that the negotiations are over, Spock composes a detailed report of everything that happened on the planet, sparing no details of his abominable behavior. Normally, he would experience shame from recounting such a total lack of control, but the force of his catharsis has been so strong that he’s still somewhat dazed with its echoes. In fact, describing the events is mildly therapeutic in a masochistic kind of way.
Spock does realize, though, that this might well be the last report he ever files as first officer of the Enterprise. Starfleet cannot leave such a drastic breach of protocol and personal code of conduct unaddressed. It is likely they would consider sending him into a rehabilitation center (in which case he would immediately resign) or ground him for an indefinite period of time to a station where he can be closely monitored. There is no question he will be relieved of his current position.
Spock feels uneasy about it. Now that the blinders covering his eyes have been torn away, he is all the more aware of the people around him – their emotions have suddenly become clearer, sliding into focus. And, to borrow a human expression, Spock likes what he sees. He allows himself to regret his imminent leaving.
“Commander, a word,” Kirk says at the end of a staff meeting.
Spock waits patiently as the others file out of the room, trying not to avoid the captain’s eyes. Ever since the mission, it has been difficult for him to interact with Kirk without experiencing an acute case of embarrassment. No matter how necessary, looking at the darkest parts of his soul has been shameful enough. To have shared that knowledge...
“Spock, um...” Kirk starts hesitantly, making Spock actually look at him. The captain seems uncharacteristically cautious, a most unusual expression on Kirk’s face. “About your report.”
Spock’s heart sinks unpleasantly at the reminder, and he stiffens involuntarily, trying to control himself.
Kirk grimaces and rubs the back of his neck uncomfortably, not quite meeting Spock’s eyes, either.
“I don’t want to send it.”
Spock stares. “I beg your pardon?”
Kirk sighs and drops to a chair next to Spock, folding his hands on the table and peering at Spock with a strangely intense expression.
“I don’t want to send it,” he repeats, more confidently. “You know Starfleet bureaucracy as well as I do. They won’t ever let us handle this. I mean, I know we can deal with this perfectly on our own, but—”
“Can we?” Spock asks quietly.
Kirk’s expression softens, but his reply carries strong conviction. “Yes, we can.”
Spock lifts an eyebrow. “And if you are incorrect, and I turn out to present a constant danger to the ship?”
“Spock.” Kirk sighs. “Really. I don’t believe in that, and neither do you. Do you have to be so backward about it?”
Spock says nothing.
“Look. The simple truth is, I need you,” Kirk says earnestly. “And if you think that’s easy for me to say, you’ve drastically misjudged my character,” he adds dryly. “I’ve just watched you play cat and mouse with Kovac for two days and to be honest, the Federation Trade Commission should pay you extra for what you’ve done. If that was you at your worst, I can wait for your best for, like, a good while.”
“You overestimate my—”
“Spock,” Kirk interrupts, lifting a hand off the table. “Let’s not do this. I told you what I think. I told you what I want.” Their eyes lock. “I want you here.”
Spock looks away first. Kirk appears not to notice.
“Listen,” he says, leaning forward. “If you want to take some personal time – if you want to go to New Vulcan and help your people – if you want to, I don’t know, join some kind of convent to deal with this, that’s fine.” Kirk pauses, allowing the words to sink in. “I’m not going to like it, but I’ll deal. If that’s what you want, I can understand that.”
Spock clears his throat. “Captain…”
“But if you want to leave just so you wouldn’t inconvenience anyone here too much, you can damn well shove it.”
Spock purses his lips, meeting Kirk’s eyes daringly.
“What do you want, Spock?” Kirk asks, his tone oddly tense with an emotion Spock can’t identify. “You’re so used to thinking about everyone else first. For once in your life, forget everyone else. What do you want? I can play it either way; just tell me.” He leans in almost desperately.
Spock knows, feels it clawing at his skin, the realization that something crucial is happening now. Once again, he stands before a life-altering choice, and he has yet to make a correct decision. But this time, the mistake – if, indeed, it is a mistake – is easy.
“I wish to stay,” Spock says, surprised by the firmness of his tone.
Kirk doesn’t grin, but his whole frame relaxes as he falls back into his chair. It suddenly feels like the room has attained additional illumination.
“Okay.” The captain nods. “Okay. Then here’s what we’re going to do. I’m not forwarding your report. They’re gonna have to deal with my own for a while. You’re free to read it,” Kirk says hastily, seeing that Spock’s ready to object. “I don’t intend to lie about anything.”
“That is…” Spock pauses. “Satisfactory.”
Kirk gives him a dry grin. “Right then. Here’s the part you’re not going to like. You’re going to have to be talking to Bones a couple of times a week. I know you two aren’t exactly drinking buddies, but he’s certified for just about anything, I trust him, and we’ll need some medical backup in case we ever need to prove you’re not insane.”
Spock presses his lips together tightly. “If that goal is to be achieved by comparison, Doctor McCoy is indeed the most logical candidate.”
Kirk snorts softly, shaking his head. “I swear to God, there’s something between you two that’s just...” He trails off, grinning, even as the humor in his eyes slowly fades. “If you need some time off, or light duty, or – anything – tell me, okay?”
Spock straightens in his seat. “That is very generous, Captain, but it will not be necessary. I have found my work to be... a distraction and solace both.”
Kirk nods. “I would, too, I guess.” He stands up and rests a hand on Spock’s shoulder.
Spock looks up, and it’s an odd angle for him, but he remains seated. There is no threat coming from the man above him, and the gesture is strangely comforting.
“If I ask you, sometimes, how you’re doing,” Kirk says slowly, “you’re not going to bite my head off, are you?”
Spock will never know what possessed him as he tilts his chin up and says, “Vulcans don’t bite, Captain.”
Kirk’s eyes widen in surprise, but he catches himself quickly, smirking. “Is that so?” His fingers tighten slightly before releasing Spock. “I might just want to change that.”
“Inadvisable,” Spock comments, reaching to collect his PADD.
“Spock,” Kirk’s voice comes from the doorway. “I mean it. I’m here if you need me.”
Spock holds his eyes, and finally inclines his head.
They don’t talk about it again.
In the darkness, Spock lies in his bed, staring at the ceiling. For four nights in a row now, sleep has eluded him, and it is becoming a problem. So far, his meditation cycle has been taking care of his body’s needs, but it is an emergency resort, not meant to be used daily. He needs to sleep.
His mind refuses to let go, remaining in the alert mode, as if he’s constantly expecting an attack. In four days, Spock has tried everything from Vulcan mind control techniques to Starfleet’s recommended routines. He can’t relax. His whole body aches with the effort.
He gets up finally, frustrated and tired, and walks to his desk. He’s looking over every intelligence report, every news broadcast he can reach; listening to every whisper; looking, searching for signs of danger. He flags messages and then dismisses them, asking himself if this is what paranoia feels like.
He is determined not to let another Nero slip under the radar.
He’s dead on his feet, and he doesn’t sleep.
“Come on in,” McCoy says, Spock entering his office for what will be their fourth meeting. “Sorry, could you hold this for me?”
The doctor promptly shoves a stack of books into Spock’s arms as he tries to maneuver another one on the top shelf.
“May I ask—?” Spock starts uncertainly, eyeing the precarious position McCoy assumes on his desk.
“Jim gave them to me,” comes a muffled reply. “Said my office needed some ‘decorating.’”
“And these are—?”
“Some ancient medical encyclopedia, goddamn it,” McCoy huffs, only just catching himself before he topples over. “God knows where Jim digs up that shit, though I gotta tell you, some of the pictures here look like a ripper’s manual.”
“The captain has chosen his gift well, in that case.”
McCoy turns his head sharply to glare at Spock over his shoulder, and the fragile balance of his position shifts.
“Doctor,” Spock says warningly, but it’s too late.
McCoy’s knee twists from under him, and he disappears behind his desk with a muffled yelp. Spock resists the temptation to roll his eyes as he sets the books carefully on the desk and looks around it.
“Are you all right?”
“Peachy, Spock,” McCoy snaps. “I almost broke my neck, what do you think? Give me a hand, will you, so that we can get this over with. I know how much you’re enjoying our little dates.”
Spock reaches out obediently to help the doctor to his feet, his gaze lingering on a vase with a dozen bright pink roses.
“While we are on the subject of dates,” Spock intones slowly, eyeing the bouquet with something close to alarm. The endings of the petals are colored with golden powder. “You appear to have an admirer, Doctor.”
McCoy blushes a spectacular hue of red as he pulls away from Spock and straightens his uniform.
“Someone just left them here,” he grumbles, averting his eyes.
“Ah,” Spock says. “They are...”
“Okay, I dare you.” McCoy glares at him.
“…a most peculiar shade of—”
“Pink,” McCoy finishes with a groan. “Someone sent me pink roses. Hey, Spock.” The doctor’s eyes brighten suddenly. “You don’t suppose it could be—”
Spock almost feels bad, but it is clearly a matter of honor. “No one who works for me would have such a poor sense of style, Doctor.”
“If so, they didn’t learn it from you,” McCoy grunts.
Spock can’t help his curiosity. “Why have you kept them?”
“Only a cold-blooded hobgoblin like yourself would ask that.” McCoy sighs. “I didn’t want whoever sent them to see me getting rid of them. They could be... upset.”
Spock arches an eyebrow. “Would they not be more upset assuming their gift was well received and discovering later that that was not the case?”
“Look, what d’you want from me?” McCoy snaps impatiently. “I’m not exactly an expert in all this lovey-dovey stuff.”
Spock eyes him critically. “I find that hard to believe.”
McCoy glances at him, clearly surprised. “Please tell me you’re not hitting on me.”
Spock gives him an eyebrow. “I am not that mentally deranged, Doctor. I was merely implying that since you are known to be prone to experiencing fits of – what is the word? – sentimentality, this ‘stuff,’ as you put it, should be exactly your area of expertise.”
McCoy’s eyes narrow. “Just because I like ‘em blond doesn’t mean I’ll paint my house like a Hello Kitty store.”
Spock stares pointedly at the senses-insulting roses sitting comfortably in the middle of McCoy’s desk, challenging the visitors. “If you say so.”
McCoy throws his hands up and drops into his chair. “Take a seat, and enough talking about the goddamn roses already.”
Spock folds himself into a chair and tries not to appear as if he’s ready to bolt at any moment. McCoy looks him over and rolls his eyes.
“Honestly, it’s like I’m torturing you here.” He catches the look on Spock’s face and lifts a hand hastily. “No, for God’s sake, don’t answer that.” He stills, as the lighthearted tone of the conversation dies out. “So tell me, how was your day?”
Spock shifts uncomfortably, before catching himself. “It was adequately productive,” he replies cautiously.
“No unusual incidents?”
Spock examines the phrasing carefully. Finally, sensing a trap but not seeing it, he says as nonchalantly as he can make it, “None that I recall.”
“Hm.” McCoy hums, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “What about Lieutenant Bonelli?”
Spock frowns slightly. “What about her?”
“I heard she was conducting an experiment with high energy plasma.”
“That is correct.”
“How’d it go?”
Spock folds his arms across his chest, leaning back in his chair slightly. “It proceeded satisfactorily. The extrapolated result has been obtained. Lieutenant Bonelli has demonstrated that she is a capable researcher.”
“Yeah, I heard she’s pretty smart.” McCoy nods, gazing at Spock. “And handy with hazardous substances.”
“Indeed,” Spock confirms. “She is most proficient.”
“Really,” McCoy drawls. “So why didn’t you let her run the reaction by herself?”
Spock pauses. “I do not understand.”
“Well, I’m not an expert in plasma physics,” McCoy says conversationally, “but as I understand it, there’s a part of every such experiment when you have to interact with it directly.”
“That is correct.”
“And when Bonelli reached that phase, you stepped in?”
Spock purses his lips. “Correct.”
McCoy raises his eyebrows. “Why?”
“I was there at the moment.”
“Yeah, I would imagine. But why did you step in? Didn’t you just say she was qualified enough to handle it on her own?”
“That was not a matter of the lieutenant’s qualification.”
“What was it about then?”
Spock frowns. “I don’t understand. How is this relevant?”
“It’s relevant because I say so.”
“I’ve noticed that you have a most perverted view of what constitutes logical reasoning, Doctor.”
“Well, with such astounding powers of observation, I’m sure you’ve also noticed that I’ve asked you the same question three times now, and you still haven’t answered.” McCoy makes a pointed pause. “Also, you’ve just used a contraction. Something you only do when time is of an essence, when there’s a danger present and your adrenaline spikes, or – when you’re irritated.”
“I do not become irritated,” Spock snaps.
“And I don’t have pink roses on my desk. Sure.”
Spock closes his eyes for a moment, steeling himself.
“Why did you step in, Spock?” McCoy asks, casual but firm. “Why did you really step in?”
Mentally, Spock retreats; every fiber of him caves from the question, shying away from the persistent attention pouring at him through a giant looking-glass. But McCoy wants to help, Spock keeps reminding himself.
Dutifully, he thinks back toward the episode, replays it in his mind.
He sees Francesca Bonelli – Fran to her friends – a young, lively woman with dark skin and dark eyes and a timid smile that causes her male colleagues to lose their train of thought 29.9 percent of the time. Spock sees her adjusting the plasma unit, measuring matter particles, inputting the equation. She looks back at him once she’s ready, a mixture of doubt, a request for approval, hope, and excitement in her eyes. She bites her lip, visibly reinstating her confidence; she’s eagerness and alarm in equal proportions.
It’s the alarm that seals it. Spock steps in.
“There was a risk,” he admits finally. “Every experiment of this kind involves a risk.”
“And you didn’t trust her to handle it?”
“No,” Spock says, honest, now. “I did trust her. I did not wish for her to take that risk in the first place.”
McCoy nods. “That’s right, you didn’t. And that’s not the first time in the last couple of weeks you’ve done it, either.” He starts curling his fingers. “Chekov’s shuttle test drive; Monroe’s sky dive; Scotty’s antimatter chamber inspection. Oh, and Jim is probably still mad at you for the way you set him up on Xeen.”
“The captain’s safety—”
McCoy raises a hand. “Whatever. Don’t you see a pattern here? You’re trying to step in every time a member of this crew is about to face danger.”
Spock is silent, because, hard as he wishes he had a different explanation, he cannot find one.
“Are you on some kind of quixotic quest?” McCoy asks, sarcasm gradually seeping into his tone.
“I do not believe so.”
“I don’t either. Risk is part of our profession, Spock. Every single member of this crew is a volunteer. We’ve signed up for this. We’re taking those risks of our own free will. We don’t need saving.”
Spock looks up, and McCoy stares him in the eye squarely.
“But it’s not us you’re trying to save, is it?” the doctor asks quietly. “It’s not us. It’s someone you can’t save anymore. Someone you never can.”
Spock doesn’t say anything, feeling numb, and exhausted, and just so very tired of everything he can’t ever change or escape.
McCoy nods briskly. “We’re done for today. See you on Thursday.”
Spock pulls himself to his feet and leaves, his shoulders aching with the effort to remain upright.
Spock doesn’t care if it’s a coincidence or a part of some grand master plan that Nyota is waiting for him in his quarters later that night. She pulls him through the doors, and she doesn’t ask questions.
The petty remnants of discipline that have been holding him together give and dissolve like a paper cup forgotten in harsh November rain. Spock reaches for Nyota, and she lets him hold her. She yields under his frantic kisses, all soft and tender, but she has intent, and Spock surrenders, allowing her to guide him.
She undresses him quickly and pushes him into the shower stall, the water being just on the right side of too hot to withstand. Spock slumps down under the spray and Nyota massages his shoulders and neck, her hands strong and confident, fingers smooth with oil as the smell of jasmine fills the moist air.
It’s familiar and forgotten – that feeling that someone is taking care of him in the most basic way. Someone who doesn’t judge; someone who simply accepts; someone for whom he doesn’t have to be a hero.
Spock remains still as Nyota steps out in search for towels. There’s water on his face, and he doesn’t know – doesn’t want to know.
He sleeps for full six hours that night without dreaming.
“Hey, Spock. Mind if I join you?”
Spock glances up from his PADD to find Kirk standing at his table with a tray of food.
“Good evening, Captain. And no, of course not.”
“Thanks.” Kirk grins.
Spock looks around the nearly deserted officers’ mess, which, at the moment, offers a wide variety of available seats. He decides not to comment.
“What’s so fascinating?” Kirk points at Spock’s PADD with his spoon. “Another status report?”
“As it happens, no.” Spock gives a mild shake of his head. “I am off duty. This is recreational reading.”
Kirk cranes his neck awkwardly then gives up and reads the title upside down. “The Unbearable Lightness of Being?” He squints at Spock. “That’s like, the most depressing book I’ve ever read.”
Surprised, Spock lays the PADD down, concentrating on his companion. “The emotionality of your assessment aside – you are familiar with Milan Kundera?”
Kirk shrugs, digging into his soup. “Not my favorite. If we talk about the mind games stuff, I’d rather give Fowles another go.”
Spock peers at him curiously. “Interesting choice. I am rather fond of Fowles myself.”
“Really?” Kirk grins wickedly. “Let me guess – you’d choose the third ending to The French Lieutenant’s Woman?”
“The most realistic one,” Spock confirms defensively. “You, on the other hand, would undoubtedly choose the second.”
“Aw, I’ve always had a weak spot for ‘la bohéme.’” Kirk smirks. “Throw in a happy ending and I’m sold.”
“Predictable,” Spock says, feeling amused just the same. He glances at his PADD. “I do not find Kundera depressing, however. Perhaps a little melancholic.”
“Mhm.” Kirk hums around a spoonful. “If you like that, you should probably try Kafka.”
Spock isn’t fast enough to stifle a wince. “No, thank you.”
Kirk glances up, eyes dancing. “The Trial did it for you?”
“Letters to Felice,” Spock says, with an internal shudder. “I had the misfortune to read it at a young age. It did make me wonder how the human race managed to persist for so long, considering that your mating rituals were such a test of personal endurance.”
Kirk snorts loudly, grabbing a napkin to wipe his mouth. “Jesus,” he chokes through his paroxysm of laughter. “You thought that was the norm?”
Spock feels his cheeks color slightly. “That was a reasonable assumption under the circumstances.” He pauses. “It was also the first book that made me consider abandoning it before I was finished.”
“I can imagine.” Kirk grins. “I didn’t know you had such a taste for Earth literature.”
“While it was still literature, yes, indeed,” Spock says. “I did not know you had a fondness for reading, either.”
Kirk shakes his head, smiling sadly. “I don’t have the time anymore. Everything I read, I read as a kid or a teenager. My grandfather had this huge collection of printed books, and they were all shipped to us after he died. Unsigned boxes – no catalogue, no system. I never knew what would be in the next box I opened. I read everything I found inside.”
Spock is perplexed. “But some of those volumes were doubtless unsuitable for a child. Did no one direct your reading?”
Kirk shrugs a little stiffly and looks away. “There wasn’t anyone to ‘direct.’ Mom was forced to – I mean, she decided to return to Starfleet when I was five. And Uncle Frank wasn’t the easiest person to be around, so I tried to stay out of his way as much as possible – hence the reading.”
“I see,” Spock says, feeling warmer despite himself because Kirk clearly hasn’t been keen on sharing this, and yet he did so anyway.
Spock looks for a way to lighten the mood. “Did you have a favorite book?”
Kirk tilts his chin, grinning. “Yep – The Three Musketeers. I probably read it a hundred times, give or take.”
It makes a frightening amount of sense, Spock muses, that Kirk’s favorite book would be a romanticized novel about faithful friends sharing numerous adventures while fighting for king and country. For someone who had had a lonely childhood, the choice was so obvious and logical that Spock aches a little at the thought.
“I also loved Captain Blood,” Kirk adds cheerily, oblivious to Spock’s reflections.
“Well, now certain things are beginning to make sense,” Natalie Pechalat says with a teasing grin, joining them at the table. “I always thought you were too much of a pirate to be a proper captain.” She smiles sweetly at him. “Sir.”
“You wound me, Lieutenant.” Kirk pouts, watching as Pechalat slides into a chair next to Spock, placing a cup of steaming herbal tea in front of him as she cradles her own coffee mug.
Spock looks at her in surprise. “Thank you, Lieutenant.”
“You’re welcome, sir.” She grins slyly at him.
Kirk is gazing at them, a petulant expression on his face. “Okay, so how is it that your deputy is so much nicer than mine?” he asks Spock sulkily, the tone belied by his grin. “Sexier, too.”
“Oh, Mr. Spock, I’m sorry,” Pechalat drawls with a wicked smirk. “I’ve only just realized how much smarter my boss is than yours. Cuter, too.”
“Hey!” Kirk protests indignantly, but his eyes are laughing. “What the hell’s wrong with these women?”
“No affliction that I am aware of,” Spock says, smothering a smile. “Except, perhaps, for good taste.”
“Right as always, Commander,” Pechalat agrees, looking past him. “If you gentlemen will excuse me.”
Kirk turns his head to stare as Pechalat makes her way across the room toward the replicators, where Doctor McCoy is standing with a customarily gloomy expression on his face.
Kirk looks back at Spock eyebrows raised. “Really?”
Spock watches for a moment before replying quietly, “It would appear that way.”
“Holy shit.” Kirk whistles softly. “You okay with it?”
Spock lifts an eyebrow. “There is no regulation against romance, Captain. Besides” – his eyes narrow as he sees McCoy blushing slightly while pulling out a chair for Pechalat – “I do not believe it has progressed too far as of yet.”
Kirk chuckles, shaking his head. “That girl, Spock? Is the kind who gets what she wants.”
“I am aware. However, the good doctor is... somewhat hesitant in his response.”
“That divorce hit him pretty hard.” Kirk sighs. “She’s right up his alley, though. Given time…”
“I have full confidence in Lieutenant Pechalat’s abilities,” Spock remarks casually. “Had Alexandre Dumas, père, met her, she would have made an ideal prototype for Milady.”
“She would at that.” Kirk laughs. “Which makes you Richelieu in this landscape, my friend.”
Spock holds his eyes, the persistent sensation of warmth washing over him. “You flatter me, Captain.”
Kirk scoops up the last of his soup and smirks. “Yeah. I do.”
“I heard they reopened the VSA,” McCoy drops casually.
“Indeed,” Spock acknowledges, trying and failing to assume a more comfortable position while in the CMO’s office. “For over a century now, the VSA has been responsible for educating the Federation and moving its science forward. It would be illogical if we suddenly became derelict in our duties.”
“Yeah,” McCoy drawls. “Perhaps.” He glances at Spock curiously. “I heard they offered you a position.”
Spock stiffens. “That is correct.”
McCoy nods, looking over his PADD. “Astrophysics, multiphysics, xenolinguistics, computer science—”
“Interstellar law, and temporal mechanics.”
“So you could take your pick.”
Spock lifts an eyebrow. “‘So’ what, Doctor?”
“Why are you still here?”
“I have no interest in teaching at this time.”
“Why not? I thought you enjoyed being stuck in a room full of people forced to admit that you’re smarter than they are?”
Spock purses his lips. “Were that the case, I would have obtained a medical license and run Med Bay.”
McCoy looks at him skeptically, ignoring the comment. “The VSA was one of the most prestigious places to teach at before Nero. That change much?”
Spock considers this. “No,” he says. “They have recently hired Professor Vun of Andoria, Doctor Lemarn from the Daystrom Institute, and Mina Davish of Ilyria.”
McCoy whistles. “Quite a collection.”
“Indeed. It would be an honor just to be in their presence.”
“But you turned them down. Why?”
Spock frowns. “I already have a position.”
“Yeah, on a ship loaded with guns and torpedoes, galloping across the galaxy looking for trouble. That doesn’t sound very Vulcan to me – I mean, you guys are supposed to be pacifists.”
Spock stiffens even more. “It is logical to defend oneself—”
“What if it’s not just defense?” McCoy cuts him off. “We might not look it, but we are a military vessel. Every scientist on your team, every nurse on mine, every botanist, anthropologist, and engineer here has a second specialization. We all do.” He pinches the bridge of his nose as if the reminder is unpleasant. “Your friend Uhura wouldn’t be where she is just because she speaks forty languages. She’s there because she’s got best scores in encryption and decryption and can recognize a code in the way the stars are blinking.” McCoy presses his lips together firmly. “Sulu’s trained as a tactical officer. Chekov is a weapons specialist, and Jesus wept – if you think a seventeen-year-old in charge of our weapons banks isn’t scary, think again.”
Spock studies him calmly. “What is your second specialization, Doctor?”
McCoy glares at him, his jaw line tightening painfully. “You know damn well what it is,” he grits out.
“Indeed,” Spock says dryly. “I can personally attest that, should the need arise, you would be superb at it.”
McCoy smirks, but there’s no humor in the sharp, aborted quirk of his lips. “Why are you here, Spock?” he asks again, his tone deceptively mild.
Spock straightens up. “When I joined the service, I took on an obligation, Doctor. That obligation does not stop because it is no longer convenient.”
“Bullshit – you can serve your people just fine by joining them. Teaching at the VSA would be much closer to the Vulcan way, and isn’t that what you’ve always—”
“It’s too idle,” Spock snaps, without meaning to. “Too far away from the front line.”
McCoy’s eyebrows fly up as he allows the words to hang in the air for a moment. Spock stubbornly holds his eyes, even as he realizes that he has just lost another round.
“‘Too far away from the front line,’” McCoy repeats slowly, savoring the words. “And you, what – you consider yourself to be that one person who has to stand between your entire species and any evil that might come its way?”
“I…” Spock hesitates, glancing away. “I do not know. I merely...” He meets McCoy’s gaze. “This is what I do. This is what I am.” He pauses, thinking of the man who told him to set aside logic and do what feels right. “One hundred fifty years from now,” Spock says slowly, “this is still what I am.”
And I am still alone, he thinks. Completely and solely on my own.
McCoy stares at him for a long time before rubbing his eyes tiredly. “We’re done for the day,” he says finally. “You can go now.”
Spock looks at him, and, for the briefest of moments, experiences the strongest urge to remain.
All That Heaven Will Allow 2/2