Fandom: ST XI Reboot
Pairing: Pike/Spock for now, later Kirk/Spock
Story summary: Struggling to find his place in the universe, Spock meets exceptional people along the way. Slow-building Pike/Spock, and in time slow-building Kirk/Spock.
Chapter summary: Spock gets to show off in class, practice Vulcan wushu and be a badass.
Prologue | 1.1| 1.2
Pike is a challenging teacher. The problems he presents in his class rarely have one solution, and it’s always a bit of a dare to discover what he would have done in every case. The students love every minute of it, excited to be part of this elite group. Everyone knows that one has to be the best of the best to earn a place in Pike’s classroom.
Spock finds this particular class immensely invigorating. Tactics and strategy are very mathematical in nature, and he’s naturally good at both, especially since his emotions don’t get in the way of his decisions. There is, of course, an element of inspiration – a purely illogical, emotional reach for something beyond the boundaries of simple equations – but he’s intrigued to take this aspect into consideration, rather than annoyed.
“Did you know that Napoleon sometimes placed a cat on the chessboard in the middle of a match – to account for the element of unpredictability on a battlefield?” Pike asks the class with a grin.
Spock is hooked.
However, the most fascinating subject for him involves the moral implications of command. He enters several quite heated discussions on the subject with Pike and other students. The human-centrism in Starfleet’s approach to space exploration baffles Spock. He cannot understand why humans consider it appropriate or ‘right’ to judge every civilization they encounter by human standards.
“I am at a loss at how such a shortsighted, self-centered species as humans could have initiated such a diverse alliance as the United Federation of Planets,” Spock says defiantly at the end of one such debate. “Your belief that your species is supreme to everyone else in every way imaginable is as unethical as it is ill-based.”
“You are defending the culture of Belox IV, but they are just barbarians,” one of his classmates lashes out in retort. “Do you know that incest is legal there? Men father children with their own daughters!”
“Which is only logical,” Spock says evenly, “as it is a requirement of Beloxian biology. Their genes have an extremely low range of compatibility. Members of the same clan are 87.6% more likely to produce healthy offspring than cross-clan unions. It’s their natural way of preserving their species.”
“Preserving an abomination, you mean? ‘Cause that’s what it is, an abomination.”
“Because it offends your ethical beliefs? Would you rather they died out in order not to offend your senses?”
“It’s not natural!”
“It’s not natural for you,” Spock points out. “It is, however, perfectly natural for them. And as long as they don’t try to force anyone else to assume their lifestyle – which is also a biological imperative – I fail to see how your emotional reaction bears any relevance in the matter.”
“It bears all the relevance! Captain Brice should never have made first contact with them!”
“He did not appear to have a choice, seeing as his crew was dying and they had a cure.”
“Yeah, and now the Beloxians have warp drive and will spread the seeds of sin throughout the galaxy, when they should have been put into quarantine, until maybe some of our genetic engineers might have helped them to become normal.”
“You are using the same kind of logic as the human who three hundred years ago said: ‘Anyone who sees and paints a sky green and fields blue ought to be sterilized.’”
“Yeah? And who said that?”
Spock merely raises an eyebrow, and his opponent jumps because it’s Pike who answers him.
The classroom is suddenly silent.
“Well, at least humanity is consistent,” Spock says. “I rest my case.”
Pike glances over at him. “Well, Mr. Spock. It looks like we can always count on you to cut us down to size.” He winces. “Though it’s not always necessary to turn the knife in the wound, if you know what I mean.”
“Yeah,” Spock’s opponent drawls sulkily. “Save that for the Klingons.”
Spock fights back a sigh. At the end of the class, however, Pike asks him if he would like to defend a thesis on Prime Directive, and Spock is delighted, though he tries not to show it.
“You earned it,” Pike winks.
And it goes like this. Spock stays after classes, often, to continue the discussion they had started because it somehow seems absolutely imperative to present his arguments in full. Sometimes Moira stays, too, but more often than not it’s just him and Pike.
The captain likes to challenge him, but Spock is a fine debater. One isn’t raised by Sarek of Vulcan to be a weak conversationalist. Besides, Spock’s memory is near eidetic, and he is an avid reader. His knowledge is vast on a variety of subjects, and he derives strange but undeniable pleasure from bouncing his thoughts off of Pike. His respect for the captain is boundless and profound, and Spock treasures every minute in his company.
Slowly their conversations drift to more philosophical areas. Spock finds himself voicing questions he never dared to acknowledge before, not even to himself. It’s peculiar how he feels safe enough to raise them with Pike - how this particular human seems to hold the answer to every little thing that troubles Spock – but it is also immensely comforting.
Spock struggles to comprehend humanity, admitting if not accepting that it, too, is part of who he is. Earth isn’t his home, but neither is Vulcan. Spock knows he’s not the only one who searches for his place in this universe, but he also knows that it’s more difficult for some than for others.
His mother loves him, and so her gift to him is acceptance. And while Spock revels in it, he can’t help but think that it’s undeserved. Amanda is his mother; her love for him is a given. He knows she doesn’t understand him, but loves him nevertheless. While this is pleasant, he realizes that her love is blind. It doesn’t tell him he is worthy. He doesn’t have to be anything to warrant her love; he only has to be. But he’s not a child anymore, and he finds that, however sweet and comforting, it’s no longer enough.
His father’s feelings have always been a mystery to Spock. As a true Vulcan, Sarek never shows a glimpse of emotion. His views regarding his son, on the other hand, have always been crystal clear. Sarek did not approve of Spock’s choice of career and told Spock as much. In his opinion, Spock has chosen the path of least resistance, and Spock admits a certain level of truth here. The fact remains that his father has not spoken one word to him since Spock’s decision to reject a position at the VSA.
Pike gives him something he has never experienced before to this extent – understanding. It’s something both very new and extremely compelling to Spock. He finds it difficult to resist the pull and doesn’t, not really. In any case, there is no logical reason for him to.
They don’t only meet indoors, though.
Moira gets Spock into jogging, claiming she wants to improve her stamina. Spock doesn’t see much sense in the activity, but obliges her, and they develop a habit of jogging across the Academy grounds in the early hours of morning. It lasts for two weeks exactly, and then Moira tells him she doesn’t think it’s her thing. To his own surprise, Spock continues without her, finding the rhythmic movement meditative and soothing. It’s also an excellent way to better acclimate himself to lower temperatures.
Spock isn’t the only one who jogs around the campus, but it’s a surprise for him to cross paths with Pike one sunny morning. He stumbles, almost literally, over the captain stretching and catching his breath. Pike grins at him, waving off his apology.
“You’re an early bird, Mr. Spock.”
“Bird, Captain?” Spock lifts an eyebrow.
Pike laughs. “Just an expression,” he says, looking over Spock curiously.
Spock’s a little curious himself, as he had never seen Pike out of uniform and is strangely mesmerized by the view. Pike is wearing dark grey sweatpants and a khaki shirt of the type Spock knows the humans illogically call a wifebeater. There is a band across Pike’s forehead, presumably to prevent his hair from falling into his eyes. It’s probably illogical, but Pike looks more like a soldier now than ever before.
Pike invites Spock to join him for the final leg, and Spock agrees readily. They don’t talk much, but there’s something immensely gratifying in running side by side, listening to each other’s even breathing.
They jog together once or twice a week. It’s never prearrangement, but Spock has memorized Pike’s schedule by now and he’s almost never wrong in his assumptions on whether the captain will join him on any particular day. He enjoys the morning rallies almost as much as their discussions in class.
And then one day it stops. Pike tells him, in answer to a cautious query, that his increased workload prevents him from maintaining his regime, and Spock nods politely and doesn’t ask further. But in truth, he suspects it’s his fault somehow. The change is very abrupt to be coincidental.
That morning, Spock doesn’t expect Pike to join him. He runs along his usual path, silently returning the salutes other joggers give him. They all know each other on sight now, people who keep the same habit. Spock reflects that it’s a little like a secret society where the members don’t necessarily know each other’s names, but feel the sense of camaraderie that a formal introduction never grants.
Spock has completed his first round and has stopped for stretching. It’s a Vulcan routine, which combines light meditation and physical exercises, a mixture of gymnastics and martial arts. Spock’s in the middle of the Tai’dun sequence when Pike stumbles over him.
“Is this some kind of Vulcan wushu?” he asks, curious, after they exchange greetings.
Spock explains about the exercise and demonstrates some basic steps. Pike listens attentively and watches Spock fixedly, which Spock finds strangely exhilarating and disquieting at the same time. He hasn’t been this self-conscious working out since he was a child and tried the movements for the first time in front of twenty other children. Fortunately, his body is so used to this activity that it can function on autopilot, all seamless motion and fluid grace.
Spock isn’t vain. He knows that he has good plastique and coordination because his instructors back on Vulcan had told him so. They also mentioned Spock’s impeccable sense of rhythm. Spock accepts this for a fact, because his body has always been extremely compliant to his commands. He only wishes his mind came under his control as easily as his body does.
There is a slightly vacant, glassy look on Pike’s face when Spock has finished his demonstration. It only lasts a moment, and Spock dismisses it as an erroneous observation on his part.
“It’s almost like a dance,” Pike says in a strange voice, and Spock gives him a closer look. The captain seems to be somewhat flushed, and his breathing is still uneven, despite the fact that he has been standing motionlessly for a while. Spock frowns, immediately concerned. These are not healthy signs.
“Are you feeling unwell, Captain?” he asks, not bothering to hide his worry. “Would you like to sit down?”
As Pike doesn’t answer at once, Spock moves in. “I shall assist you.” He reaches for Pike’s arm in order to help him down, but the captain nearly springs back, evading the touch.
“No!” Pike snaps, and Spock jerks back, befuddled. Pike notices his reaction and winces. “God, Spock, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean... Thank you, but I’m fine.” He smiles quickly for emphasis. “Really. I was just... I was just thinking. Sorry.” His grin becomes more natural. “I’ll let you finish in peace.”
With that, he turns around on his heel and jogs away, leaving Spock to contemplate in bewildered silence. After that morning, he doesn’t ever see Pike jogging again.
Spock puzzles over this, trying to figure out what cultural taboo he had broken, but the answer wouldn’t come. Pike still acts the same way around him, though, still challenging him to debate various issues and clarifying numerous aspects of humanity that give Spock pause. Spock resigns to thinking that whatever he’d done wrong can’t be more terrible than having bad table manners. The thought doesn’t please him, but he leaves it at that.
November brings changes into Spock’s schedule. He has more field training now, including a week he spends at Riverside shipyards as part of his practical engineering studies. Moira is there, too, and while they spend most of their time with their noses down some energy coil or power juncture, she does find a way to squeeze some sightseeing in.
Most people wouldn’t find Iowa all that fascinating for tourism, but to Spock any new Earth environment is alien enough, and he doesn’t mind accompanying Moira around. He does change his mind, however, when she persuades him to go to a bar with her on their last night there.
Spock genuinely doesn’t understand this form of recreation and for once has no desire to explore, but eventually yields to Moira’s pleas. He can tell she wants to go but is hesitant to appear alone, and Spock knows that she doesn’t know any other cadets here except for him. He does, though, which for the first time makes him realize that he is not completely antisocial.
The bar Moira takes him to is called the Liftoff. Spock suspects the name has a lot to do with the proximity of the shipyards and the consequent vast amount of Starfleet personnel, mainly cadets. The enlistment office is nearby as well, which explains the prevalence of young people, in and out of uniform, discussing one and the same topic.
After the initial assault of overwhelming odors, the mass of moving bodies, and the loud noises unfathomably called music fades a little, Spock decides he could exist here for a short time. Hopefully, it will be enough to satisfy Moira’s curiosity.
She does look nervous, but happy, he thinks as he watches his companion. Spock doesn’t approve of the ever-present human desire to intoxicate themselves with huge amounts of alcohol, but he understands why Moira would want to walk this path. It’s what everybody around them is doing, and if Spock could understand an emotional craving, it would definitely be the yearning to belong.
They sit at a small table in the corner, consuming drinks and watching people having fun around them. Spock finds it to be a fascinating social study. He doesn’t deviate from his usual habit of drinking Altair Water, but Moira feels much more adventurous and experiments with tequila and something called Moru-Moru. They spend two relatively pleasant hours discussing their surroundings and speculating about their performance evaluations.
Trouble comes when Spock’s least expecting it. Moira takes another trip to the bar to get them new drinks and is going back toward their table when she trips over somebody’s foot and spills the drinks she’s carrying all over him.
Spock has no doubts that were her unintended victim a cadet, the misunderstanding would have been cleared in a minute. Unfortunately, Moira manages to stumble over a young local male who’s come to have a drink with his friends. The three of them are now on their feet facing her, and Spock just knows that it won’t end well. Moira is a well-coordinated human; somehow Spock doesn’t think it was her fault that she tripped.
He’s on his feet before he really knows it, moving in, in one swift motion.
“Is there a problem, gentlemen?”
They turn toward him and look over him appraisingly.
“What’s it to you?”
“Hey, what’s with the pointy ears?”
“Spock,” Moira cautions, “don’t get involved. I’ll handle this.”
“Sure you will, baby,” the man says, and points at his shirt smeared with grenadine. “You can start by cleaning this up. Feel free to be creative.”
“Guys, how about I buy you a round?” Moira says, uncomfortable and nervous.
“I said, clean this up, bitch,” the man demands harshly, and then he makes a fatal mistake.
He grabs her.
Things unfold really quickly from that point. Spock reaches for him, but is stopped by one of the others. Moira’s muffled warning hasn’t faded yet when Spock has the young human cleaning the nearby table face first. For a split second, Spock stares down at him in shock, unable to believe that he has done that, but there’s no time for him to dwell on the matter of his reflexes and the somewhat weird time for them to kick in.
Another human aims a cross in Spock’s belly, but he can’t ever hope to match Spock in either speed or strength, not to mention training. Spock is actually surprised at how much time he has to either avoid a blow or respond with a block or any other move. His sparring partners at the Academy never give him such luxury. The cadets are generally much faster and smarter as fighters, better screened and better trained. Though right now the vast amount of alcohol in their systems probably evens the odds.
Spock concentrates on extricating himself from the fight, trying to cause his assailants little to no damage, but they are continuously pushing him further and further away from his benevolent stance. It becomes rapidly clear that any altercation between the locals and cadets, no matter how small, inevitably turns into a massive ‘us vs. them’ fight, and there is simply no way Spock could get out of it now.
Somewhere in between deflecting blows, Spock thinks briefly that if Moira came here to find a sense of belonging, she has certainly achieved her goal, because by now it appears that half the Academy is defending her honor.
A loud whistle reverberates through the heated room, and the fight suddenly halts, frozen mid-moves. Spock finds himself against the bar, with an unconscious man lying at his feet and another one struggling in his hold. Spock releases him and he stalks away, shooting a nasty glance backward. Spock’s eyes dart across the room swiftly, searching for Moira. He relaxes slightly, realizing she’s standing on her own and doesn’t appear to be injured.
And then Spock tenses all over again, because Pike is standing in the doorway, hands on his hips. He’s looking around, surveying the chaos, and his gaze isn’t promising anything good. Spock swallows as Pike’s eyes meet his and widen slightly. He wishes he could get himself cleaned up or at least smooth his hair back, but like every other cadet present, Spock doesn’t dare to move.
“Who started the fight?” Pike demands quietly, but in the deafening silence he doesn’t really need to raise his voice to be heard.
Nobody moves or says anything. Spock is certain the cadets know full well who started it, but no one volunteers the information. All of a sudden, it’s like a warm wave washes over him. For the first time since he came to Earth, he feels he’s a legitimate part of something. It doesn’t mean that he is going to start lying though.
He steps forward to say, “I did, sir,” just as Moira does the same, and they glare at each other for a moment.
Pike’s eyes widen once again, and his lips twitch as if he’s fighting back a smirk. But the reaction is fleeting.
“The rest of you outside,” Pike orders briskly. “Not you,” he points at the locals. “You wait right here till the local PD sends someone to collect you.”
“Great,” blurts out the guy who demanded cleaning services from Moira and is now sporting a nice round black eye.
Pike walks over to Spock and Moira as the other cadets file out. They stand in front of him at parade best, as he gives each of them a careful once-over.
“Well,” Pike says. “I must admit I never imagined you two in a situation like this.” He speaks to both of them, but looks mostly at Spock, who feels more uncomfortable by the second. “What in God’s name possessed you, Spock?”
Spock has difficulty meeting his eyes. “I... I regret that I have no explanation to offer.”
There’s a loud snort coming from the group of the local patrons.
“Your Vulcan doesn’t like to share, Captain, sir.” The young man gives Pike a mock salute before switching over to Spock. “Should have watched your girlfriend better now, shouldn’t you?”
Spock stiffens even more, as Pike’s gaze returns to him. The captain appears to be waiting for some kind of reaction, but Spock doesn’t have the first clue of what to say. Pike’s eyes dart uncertainly between Spock and Moira, until finally a resigned expression settles in them. It almost looks like he wanted to ask something but changed his mind.
“It’s all my fault, sir,” Moira says miserably. “Guess I was clumsy or wasn’t looking where I was going.”
“There is an eighty-five point seven percent probability that it was a setup,” Spock informs her coolly. “You are not in the habit of tripping over your own feet.”
“It doesn’t matter,” she insists, shaking her head. “I should have been more careful.” She looks up at Pike almost pleadingly. “Please, sir, Cadet Spock’s only involved in this because of his misguided attempt to protect me.”
Pike looks from one to the other again and sighs softly. He smiles, but once again, the smile doesn’t reach his eyes. Spock feels as if something’s dying inside him.
“You can’t blame him for being a gentleman, Ms. Jones,” Pike tells her, almost kindly, and it sounds like a eulogy.
“No, I guess not,” she sighs too.
“Fine,” Pike says. “The shuttle for the Academy leaves in six hours. Once there, you’re both confined to quarters whenever you’re not in class for a week. Understood?”
“Yes, sir,” they say in unison.
“Go get cleaned up. Dismissed.”
Spock holds Pike’s gaze a moment longer. He has no difficulty recognizing the reigning emotion he sees there. Disappointment. The one thing he is most afraid of. The need to right this wrong somehow is overwhelming, and Spock speaks out of turn, words burning on his tongue. He wants to explain that he understands perfectly that he’s made a mistake, that he could have handled the situation better. He wants to tell Pike about the heat of the moment, and how quickly everything happened, and a great number of other things – anything to make this harsh expression soften. But in the end, he can only say one thing.
“Captain, I... I’m sorry.”
The look on Pike’s face becomes even more closed and distant, and he doesn’t answer; just turns on his heel and leaves.