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: Cuddling, confusion, and Spock goes shopping!
Prologue | 1.1| 1.2 | 1.3
Spock can appreciate the irony of living among humans. Having initiated an ugly act of a bar fight, he suddenly becomes popular. Not that he has been a pariah before exactly, but he has never received as much attention as he does now. The details of what had happened at the Liftoff are floating from dorm to dorm, gaining more colorful additions on their way. Suddenly, beautiful female cadets are smiling at Spock in the corridors, and there is a lot of clapping on the shoulder from the males.
Spock doesn’t understand their logic at all, but his attempts to gain some clarification only result in the mysterious conclusion, ‘Hey, he’s funny, too!’ Spock decides to let it go, though he’s not entirely comfortable with the situation.
Particularly not with all the impromptu raids on his quarters during the week of his ‘home arrest.’ Spock can’t quite fit it into his mindset that people would come uninvited with a misdirected intention of ‘cheering him up,’ would bring excessive amounts of food and drinks, would turn the music on much louder than he could ever conceive – and would not leave until morning, thus thoroughly disturbing his studies.
Captain Pike doesn’t notice him. He would nod in response to Spock’s greeting, but his eyes wouldn’t change their expression. He would look at Spock in the same way he would at any other cadet, and Spock suddenly realizes that there used to be a distinction, and that it is extremely disquieting not to see it anymore.
In class, though, Pike would still call on him, and it’s reassuring. Spock is still one of Pike’s best students, and their debates are as lively as usual. But there would be no invitation or encouragement to stay after classes to continue the discussion. Spock lingers in the classroom deliberately several times, collecting his things more slowly or under some other pretense, but it’s no use. Pike would leave the room without a second glance.
Moira isn’t there as much as she used to be. They have finally reached the stage when her and Spock’s respective specialties force them to part ways. Moira is primarily an engineer, and Spock a scientist. Pike’s course remains the only class they still share.
“What’s with the silent treatment?” Moira asks quietly at the end of a lecture. Spock gives her a quizzical look, and she sighs. “I can’t believe he’s still mad at you for Iowa; it was ages ago.” She lays her hand on his shoulder and squeezes gently in apology. “And not your fault, anyway.”
Spock glances over to where Pike is answering questions. He laughs amicably at what probably is an amusing comment one of the cadets has made, and Spock feels a sudden pang of pain as if something inside him had gone dead. As if sensing his gaze, Pike looks up at him and for a moment, their eyes meet. Pike’s smile fades as if turned off, and he looks away abruptly.
“You okay?” Moira asks softly. “You look pale.”
“I am functional,” Spock replies, somewhat curtly. “And am late for my next class. Excuse me.”
It goes on in the same manner for weeks, and Spock adjusts. It’s not the first time he has disappointed someone important to him. Apparently, he’s lacking something within, something crucial for forming deep personal bonds. It proves his hypothesis that his mother only loves him because it’s a biological imperative. He is a scientist. He cannot ignore facts.
He’s also practically never alone now. His classmates now consider him ‘cool,’ and it’s always ‘Would you join our team?’ or ‘Really could use your help with temporal mechanics’ and even ‘Hey, there’s a party tonight at Meg’s, you coming?’
Spock participates, because despite his double major, he still has some time to spare. The time he used to spend talking to Pike or reading up for his next meeting with him. Spock finds that whenever his mind is unoccupied lately, it inevitably drifts to the captain, and those thoughts are futile. Spock has always loathed self-pity.
It really catches him by surprise one day when Pike stops him in the corridor and asks to have a word. Spock nods readily and follows the human into an empty classroom. When Pike turns to face him, his face is strict.
“Look, I hate to pry into someone’s personal life,” Pike says without preamble. “But I like to help people whenever I can. I’m sorry for calling you on this, but we talked a lot before, and I consider you somewhat closer to me than an average student, Mr. Spock. I think of you as a friend.”
Spock has to swallow down a lump that has suddenly constricted his throat.
“I am honored, Captain. I consider you a friend as well.”
“Yeah, well, as a friend.” Pike’s eyes bore into him piercingly. “What you’re doing isn’t cool.”
“Hanging out with these guys?” Pike nods back toward the corridor in reference to the group of cadets Spock has just disengaged himself from. “I know they’re the coolest of them all and that apparently, you’re their new hero. I know you’ve been feeling out of place here and I can sympathize with your wish to belong, but that doesn’t justify turning your back on old friends, Spock. It’s not nice.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” Spock frowns helplessly. “I do not understand.”
Pike sighs, his frustration obvious. “I think you’ve been neglecting Cadet Jones for a while now, Spock. What, she was good enough for you to date when no one else was on the horizon, but not anymore? She’s a great person, Spock. Maybe she doesn’t have as much glamour as your new girlfriends do, but she’s more worthy than all of them put together.”
Spock blinks. He can recognize all the words Pike is saying, but together they make no sense to him. He hasn’t seen Moira recently, that is correct. But that is only natural, considering they both have full schedules. Spock is puzzled.
He can feel that Pike is genuinely upset with him, though, as if Spock has slipped from some higher standard. It’s not at all a pleasant sensation.
“You really hurt her, you know,” Pike tells him gravely. “Her grades have been slipping. Her teachers say she can’t concentrate in class, keeps spacing out. Her roommate says she cries often. Spock, I never took you for a cruel person. How could you do this to her?”
Spock stares at him, distressed with the news and struggling to understand his connection to it.
“You believe that Cadet Jones is emotionally distressed and that it is... my fault?” he asks carefully.
Pike’s features soften slightly. “I’m not saying you did that on purpose. But you have to right this wrong, Spock. You have to fix your relationship before we lose her. I know you mean well, and we all get carried away sometimes. But you need to do what men do. Take responsibility.”
Spock nods thoughtfully, still utterly confused and struggling for an epiphany. Which simply wouldn’t come. “I shall endeavor to do so, sir.”
“Great,” Pike grins, and it’s almost like it used to be. “Look, it’s not my place to say, but you two seem to fit well together. I’m sure you can work it out.”
Before a still very bewildered and consequently somewhat slow Spock can ask him what he means, Pike takes his leave.
It takes a while to hunt Moira down. She was absent during Pike’s last lecture, Spock remembers. Actually, she wasn’t at the lecture before last as well. Spock hasn’t seen her in weeks, and being so absorbed with his own dark reflections he didn’t stop to think what it might mean. When Spock finally sees her, he understands the reasons for Pike’s concern immediately.
To borrow a human colloquialism, Moira looks like hell.
She’s sitting in the farthest, murkiest corner of the cantina, with an untouched plate of food in front of her. The moment she spots Spock she drops her head to her arms folded on the table and starts crying.
“There’s this guy,” she manages when Spock slides into a chair next to her. “An upperclassman? We knew each other back home, years ago. And I wasn’t... you know, I wasn’t ever anything to look at, so I didn’t even dream of it or anything. But now we meet here, and I’ve changed, and he’s been all friendly and all, and I thought... I thought maybe it’d work out this time. And he’s been... He’s been...”
She lifts her eyes at him, puffy and filled with misery. “He’s been using me to get to my roommate.”
Spock can do little but allow her to bury her face in his shoulder and let the tears fall.
He doesn’t have the first clue of how to offer comfort, and to an emotion-driven being no less. All he has to go by is his recollection of his mother, her soft voice and gentle arms surrounding him when he was very young and came home stiff-lipped and anguished because the other boys tormented him for not being truly Vulcan. Spock remembers her care, her infinite sympathy, which somehow didn’t make him feel weak or small, but gave him the consolation he craved, even without resolving any of his problems.
He pulls the unresisting Moira to her feet then and walks her to his quarters, one arm around her waist. As there are no other Vulcans currently studying at the Academy, Spock resides alone in respect to his cultural sensitivities. Moira follows him blindly, and he can tell she’s simply too exhausted, physically and emotionally, to care.
Spock doesn’t intend to speak. He could never perceive human psyche enough to offer advice, and he knows that Moira doesn’t need to hear his logical approach to her problem right now. So Spock doesn’t talk. Instead, he makes her drink a cup of Vulcan spice tea, choosing the blend that he knows acts like a potent relaxant on humans.
He then guides her to the bed, for it’s obvious to him that she hasn’t been sleeping and requires rest badly. He sets her comfortably under the blanket, pulling her shoes and jacket off. He turns to go, intending to spend the night reading at his desk, which for him wouldn’t be a big deal. But Moira reaches for him, deliriously, and pulls him back toward her, and she’s making that half-frightened, half-pleading sound that little children make when they are afraid to fall asleep.
Spock gives in. He kicks his own boots off, hangs his jacket neatly next to Moira’s, and yes, he knows it’s called cuddling, and it’s something he has never envisioned himself doing. His mental barriers protest at first against the sensory overload, but Spock adjusts quickly. His human friend has human needs and he is pleased to provide what he can, because he can’t fix her problem for her. If that means some extra meditation time for him, so be it.
It’s an unusual, but strangely stimulating feeling – to be responsible for someone, even in this limited way. It’s as if having someone else turn to him for help makes him stronger, and smarter, and somehow more capable than he is on his own. The emotion is illogical, but overwhelming and highly pleasurable.
“You’re the best friend ever,” Moira tells him in the morning, stepping out of his shower and kissing him on the cheek lightly. “See you around.”
Spock intends to hold her to that.
Just like that, Moira’s troubles are lifted. The upperclassman she spoke of is as fond of her as she is of him and her roommate had only tried to play matchmaker, so it was all one big unfortunate misunderstanding. Spock is forcibly reminded of the events of Much Ado About Nothing. He thinks ironically that humans haven’t changed since the time of Shakespeare at all.
It’s three days before the Christmas break starts, and Spock’s in Pike’s classroom again, lingering longer than the rest of the group, but this time entirely by accident. Spock is so used by now to Pike ignoring him outside classes that it comes as a surprise to him to catch the captain’s eye. Pike smiles at him as Spock walks down the steps.
“That was an inspired argument, Mr. Spock,” Pike says, crossing his arms over his chest.
“Inspired, sir?” Spock’s eyebrow crawls up. “Merely logical.”
“‘The aesthetic value of cave paintings on Semquat V is no lower than that of the Sistine Chapel; is it only your narrow-minded attitude that prevents you from seeing that?’” Pike quotes Spock’s words from minutes ago. “Sounds like an emotionally-charged argument to me.”
Spock inclines his head softly. “When dealing with emotional beings, such as humans, it is often advisable to use emotion-invoking arguments.”
“So you’ve been humoring us?” Pike grins. “Or playing?”
Spock feels the corners of his own mouth twitch. “Neither, sir. Merely a means to an end.”
Pike chuckles. “Efficient as always. Everything okay with you and Moira?”
Spock blinks. “I am... well, sir. To the best of my knowledge, so is Cadet Jones.”
“Good, good. Sorry for cornering you a while back, but... Anyway. You two have plans for the holidays?”
Spock doesn’t have a family to visit on Earth, and so just like his first Christmas here, he intends to remain at the campus. For him, it’s not unusual. Even when his mother wasn’t accompanying Sarek on one of his diplomatic missions, the strain between Spock and his father would still make any kind of reunion impossible.
“I plan to work on my thesis, sir,” he tells Pike, cataloguing material he is going to need in his head. “As for Cadet Jones, I understand it she plans to spend her vacation in Mexico.”
“By herself?” Pike blinks.
“No, she will be accompanied by the young man who has been courting her.”
This time Pike stares. “She’s got a new boyfriend?” he asks incredulously.
Spock isn’t sure how the word ‘new’ applies. But then, Pike knew Moira was in trouble when Spock didn’t, so maybe he’s better acquainted with her personal life than Spock is. It’s not like he and Moira ever spoke at length about their personal background to each other. Spock opts for a cautious response.
Pike’s expression changes, and suddenly he’s regarding Spock with endless sympathy.
“Oh, God, Spock, I’m so sorry. She picked one hell of a time to switch gears, huh?”
Spock doesn’t understand, so he doesn’t comment, and the hand on his shoulder feels too good to protest at any rate.
“Tell you what,” Pike starts in a deliberately more cheerful tone. “How would you feel about visiting Switzerland?”
“I have a cottage there and whenever I’m on Earth on Christmas, my friends and I spend it there. I know it’s probably not your preferred ambient temperature, but the mountains are beautiful, Spock, you’ve gotta see them. I’m going in two days. Would you like to come with me?”
“Captain...” Spock mumbles as his heart begins to race. “I would never wish to intrude—”
“Hey. It’s not an intrusion if you’re invited, right? It’s going to be a house full of people even I barely know by this point. You and I haven’t talked much lately, and I miss it. It’ll be nice to catch up, don’t you think?”
“Yes, sir,” Spock replies automatically. “But it’s not necessary for you to do this. I am—”
“—in need of a break, like everyone else.”
“You do not have to do this.”
“I know, Spock, but I want to.” Pike grins. “So what do you say?”
Spock hesitates another moment, but he knows already he’s fighting a lost battle.
“If you are sure that it won’t be an imposition...” He trails off.
Pike’s grin widens. “Flying pad, the day after tomorrow, nine hundred hours. And Spock? Don’t forget to pack some warm clothes.”
Clothes turn out to be a problem. Spock’s sparse Vulcan wardrobe obviously is of no help, and he hasn’t been wearing anything other than his uniform for a year and a half now. He needs to do something he has never done in his life: shopping.
“Don’t go to automatic stores,” Moira advises him when he catches her in the midst of her own packing. “I know it might seem easier to you, not interacting with people and everything, but you’ll never get anything that fits right from an auto-vendor.”
Spock tries to tell her that he is less concerned about the appearance and much more about not getting frostbite, but she doesn’t listen. Instead, she pushes a card with the address of the shop she and her boyfriend haunt into his hand and shoves him out of the door.
It’s an old-fashioned store where the clothes actually are hung in the showroom, complete with very much alive human shop assistants. At the time when machines have replaced human labor in so many areas, a shop such as this appears as exotic as the Gutenberg Bible must have seemed to readers used to manuscripts and papyrus.
Spock doesn’t have much time to dwell on it, though. The moment he enters, he’s greeted by a young female wearing the shop’s uniform. As he stammers through his request for winter-proof clothes, they are joined by another female and very soon by a male. Before he has time for so much as a deep breath, Spock is herded into a fitting room. He steps toward the measuring scanner, but the male shop assistant whose nametag reads ‘Daniel’ stops him with an arm across his chest.
“No scanner can compete with my eye for beauty,” Daniel declares with a smirk, glancing Spock over from head to foot. “Damn, this is my lucky day. Girls, I’m thinking Ted Baker, I’m thinking Tommy Hilfiger, and I’d really like to see this guy in Dior, he was born for it. Now get going and make me proud.”
“Wait.” Spock stops them. “You do realize that the clothes should be... practical?”
The girls smile at him in unison while Daniel laughs. “Don’t worry, handsome. It’s all prêt-a-porter.”
Spock doesn’t ask.
Forty minutes later, he feels exhausted the way he’s never felt before. Spock could never imagine that trying on clothes could be so taxing. Everything he tries fits perfectly, but when he leaves the cubicle to demonstrate it to his unexpected assistants, their comments puzzle him over and over again.
“Oh my God. Can I keep him?”
“I think I liked the blue one better.”
“You kidding? Green looks fantastic!”
“Yeah, but blue highlighted his eyes.”
“How about gold?”
“Nah, he’s the classic winter type, can’t you see? Black hair, black eyes, pale skin – he’s made for cold colors.”
“I think he can try chocolate brown.”
“That’s actually not a bad idea. What do we have in chocolate brown?”
“Transparent shirts? Are you crazy? The guy looks like a blue blood or something, and you want to put him into a stripper’s garb?”
“Forget it; you’re not taking him home. Now, go get me one of those Marc Jacobs shirts. Oh, and grab some jeans while you’re at it, will you? They’re gonna squeeze him just right.”
“I’m on it.”
“Black pants, black shirt? Boring much?”
“Look at him.”
“Could work. Would you please try these for us?”
“Oh my God. Oh my God. Somebody pinch me.”
“What she means is you’re gorgeous.”
“What I mean is he’s smoking hot.”
“He is, isn’t he? Boy, I love my job.”
It goes on for a while. Spock’s patience evaporates remarkably quickly, as the utterly confusing situation continues to escalate. He finally leaves the shop with far more bags than he planned to acquire but far less than they tried to force on him. He considers it a victory. He also discovers Daniel’s card in his pocket later.