“I’m heading off to my quarters,” Pike announced to his crew, with the kind of solemn casualness only a Starfleet captain could maintain. “I’ll see you all in the morning.”
Number One slightly turned her head to look at him and replied with an amused smirk, full of insinuations, “Have a good evening, Captain.”
Pike gave her a polite smile but did not feel the joy associated with the gesture. Deep down he was crushed, sentimentally annihilated. His plans for the next few hours promised for a mortifying experience.
Tonight, and despite all his will not to do so, he would break up with Spock. His soft, gentle, loving partner, the smartest officer and the most perfect friend... and Chris was on his way to break his (warmer than they all thought) Vulcan heart. As if the kid had not suffered enough yet.
He felt like a monster, as he walked towards his quarters. A monster on the death row. This room was his, the cosy corner he had just found again within the Enterprise, more than the impersonal quarters he was inhabiting on Discovery. And it would be the scene of his most painful breakup. What a wonderful night indeed!
Yet as guilty as he felt, Chris knew he would feel even worse if he forced Spock to share his life, be a faithful companion, build their relationship from the start only to share the experience of this gruesome death the time crystal had shown him. This was not fair.
Spock was still so young, he had a promising life ahead of him, he deserved to spend it with someone his age, someone healthy with a brilliant future. Breaking his heart would be the most difficult task Christopher Pike ever had to perform, and the pounding of his heart punctuated his one of a kind walk of shame.
He didn’t know how his lover would react. The poor boy had lost his sister once again so recently, they had lost many good friends, left a valuable crew behind. Making him suffer even more felt like a more unbearable ordeal than what Pike knew his future held. He tried to persuade himself it was an act of benevolence and mercy to push Spock away before he would get too hurt. Yet he knew the words would be rough like sandpaper over his tongue.
He had mentally practised them all day, almost blurted a “We need to put some distance between us” when an officer asked for his signature on a document. What would be the most logical way to pass his message? A vocal recording, a written letter? A face to face confrontation? How were these things done on Vulcan? Pike’s heart swelled in his chest as he got closer to his room, a boulder threatening to choke his tight throat.
He could not bear the thought of Spock growing even more in love with him, being his devoted companion and feeling obligated to stick with him through the terrible years to come. For how long would he survive in this state? Barely alive. Unable to move, to kiss his caring partner. Spock deserved a life of happiness with someone more able to take care of him. Somehow, Chris was glad to have seen his doom, at the very least for this opportunity only, to be able to push Spock away before his heart would be too hurt.
When he reached his quarters, Chris noticed the small blinking light on the panel. Someone already was in there, and only one charming Vulcan had access to his private chambers. Perfect, now he had to make up his mind and quickly find a way to deal with his feelings!
Chris stood in front of the door for a long moment, body and heart already hurting with anticipation for the painful discussion to come. He took a deep breath, then two. Then a dozen. As a Captain he thought he did a decent job but as a boyfriend? He was a complete disaster! Grabbing his badge and his courage, Pike opened the door and stepped into his room.
A frown appeared on his face as he saw the dim lights and the table set. Spock was standing in the center of the room, wearing a fancy black Vulcan tunic Pike had never seen before. He tried to talk but Spock gestured towards the table with one hand.
“Apologies for my intrusion,” he explained. “I took the liberty to set a romantic dinner for us. As lovers do in your culture.”
Pike’s shocked gaze ran from Spock and his gorgeous outfit to the table. In its center stood a single holographic candle that looked nothing like the real thing he remembered from his youth. Two plates of what appeared like a very healthy, nutritious, bland and unromantic meal, as well as a pitcher of still water composed the feast. The napkins had been festively folded in triangles instead of the usual squares, and it's the sight of a single mint leaf next to the hologram that broke all of Pike's resistances.
He felt his nose tingle for the first time in decades, barely could be aware of his own reactions before a loud whimper escaped his lips and he burst out into tears, hiding his face in his shaky hands. Like a dam suddenly opened, his tears flew right out of him, his chest heaved by deep sobs. Oh God, this was even worse than he had imagined! Spock had been through an incredible amount of efforts to offer him this pathetic excuse of a romantic dinner, and it was the most touching gift Chris ever received. He could not believe the Vulcan had come out of his natural ways like that just for him. To prove his affection in a human fashion. This was unbearably thoughtful!
When his sobs started to fade after a couple of minutes, the captain looked up, noticing his friend had not moved.
“This was not the expected outcome,” Spock stated, hands behind his back. “You seem hurt. It’s rather regrettable if I offended you in any way.”
Chris wiped his puffy eyes on his wrists to contain a second wave of tears.
“No,” he whined. “No, you did not. This is perfect, Spock. Absolutely perfect.”
The young officer blinked in silence, looking quite unsure. He waited patiently as Pike dabbed his cheeks with a folded napkin, then took a step closer.
“I am confused. Would you mind defining your reactions, please?”
Chris slowly looked up, and the second he gazed into the deep brown eyes he knew he would not have the strength to break their bond. Not now nor ever. He was a coward in love.
He shook his head, tried to smile, the weakest smile of all, “Tears of joy, love. They do exist.”
“Oh…” Spock simply replied. “I see. Would you like to express more of your emotions before we start dinner?”
“I…” Chris sighed, looking at his friend. “I will wash my hands first. You can wait for me.”
And he disappeared in the bathroom to freshen up a little, disturbed in his plans. After running his wet hands all over his face, trying to regain composure, he saw Spock walk in behind him and stand one step closer than necessary.
“Knowing your range of emotions, I find you appear quite upset, Christopher,” the Vulcan said, staring at his reflection in the mirror. “I do not wish to intrude but I believe it to be logical to ask what troubles you. Is that a matter we should discuss together, shall I provide verbal support? Or support of a more physical nature?”
Chris took a deep breath, slowly turned around to face his dear companion. There had been so much between them, so many emotions, shared moments, losses and reunions, he could not just run away from him and hide, or lie. This was not him. He had never been.
So, with a gulp, he announced in a tone that sounded much more desperate than he hoped, “I’m gonna die, Spock.”
The officer’s lashes fluttered imperceptibly and he replied, “I am aware of that fact.” And for a second Chris felt a judgemental glare on him, like he was some unintelligent person. Of course he would die, he was human after all. Spock seemed to find the statement unsurprising.
“No, I-- you don’t understand...” Chris sighed before he realized how insulting he sounded to his smart friend. “I will die, I don’t know when but… I know how. And what the crystal showed me was... really not glamorous.”
Spock’s nostrils flared in an annoyed sigh at his choice of words. This human gibberish was not to his liking but Chris had a hard time finding the right terms to express his disgusting future.
“What is your point?” Spock asked. “I am aware of your mortality, and what you faced when you held the crystal upset you. This I can understand, but how is that related to me, or to our dinner?”
Chris was mortified as he chose, once again, to be honest and placed his hands on the edge of the sink he rested against. “When I walked into my quarters, my intent was to stop our relationship before your feelings would be too strong, so that when my probable slow and painful death occurs you won’t mourn a lover, but just a friend.”
Spock’s eyebrows slightly raised in shock, not more than one or two millimeters, but the rest of his face remained impassible. An expression the Captain had seen way too often on Burnham’s face. Chris used that opportunity to explain further.
“It was my firm intention to let our feelings fade before we were too involved, I wished to preserve you from suffering, and yet… when I came in, determined but not willing to end this, seeing your beautiful dinner, the romantic atmosphere you set just for me… this was beautiful, love, and I just couldn’t do this anymore.”
“You wished to leave me,” Spock repeated dryly. “I see why my romantic intents were not well received.”
“I did not wish to,” Chris protested to defend himself. “All I ever wanted was to protect you, even though it hurt me to even consider…”
The cold glare Spock gave him, so dark, mature, and looking more than ever like his father without his soft beard, shut Pike’s mouth. The Vulcan took some time to answer, hands still crossed behind his back, before he finally emitted his judgement like a handsome but cruel magistrate.
“You do not need to explain you intentions, it seems like your kind favors this strategy,” Spock said in a cold and almost despising tone. “You push me away, just as Michael did when we were children, not for my own sake but so that you don’t have to face your own imperfection. You cannot stand the idea of disappointing me one day by not being your idea of perfect, so you would rather suppress my sentiments for you in a dishonest way, rather than accept my sadness and love keeping you company during this long agony you might, or might not experience.”
Chris looked down with a frown. He did not expect to be read so clearly by his lover who so often had troubles understanding his reactions, yet he felt more exposed than ever. And he who never before had suffered Spock’s anger felt shaken by the stormy energy contained in his partner’s body. He knew he would hurt him by breaking up with him but had not realized it would be deeper, stronger than any other kind of separation.
“I didn’t want you to be trapped in a relationship with a dying old man,” Chris sighed.
Spock held his gaze. “Your honesty is appreciated. I take that my attempts at courting in a human fashion changed your mind. The debate is over then. Do you object to taking the most rational and logical path from now on, and making the most of the time we have left together?”
“The most logical path for me was to protect you,” Chris tried weakly, not even convinced with his own words.
This time a small smirk, terribly insolent, bloomed on Spock’s cheeks. “You were wrong, but this is not your fault you were born from an illogical species.”
Pike wanted to make that subtle smirk disappear, get his authority restored even though there was no hierarchy in their private quarters, yet he could not lie to himself: this attitude was everything he loved about Spock and he would follow his favorite rebellious officer to the edge of the universe without a second thought. He tilted his head, biting his lower lip.
“Oh, come on. You like that I’m emotional enough for the both of us. My inconsequential humanity and my public displays of emotions are very cathartic for you.”
Spock, oh so annoyingly smug, turned around to leave the bathroom with a soft “I have no idea what you’re talking about, Christopher”.
Just before they reached the dinner table together, Spock turned around on his heels once more, reached for Chris and firmly shook his hand, staring into his eyes with intent. Although the captain had never before understood what was so special about Vulcan kisses, it didn’t take him more than a second to feel the raw intimacy of their palms locked and their fingers cradling each other. This was almost more indecent than the human kisses they often shared.
He was a coward wrapped around a mutineer’s little finger.
And maybe making the most of every minute spent by his side until the end of his life was the best idea anyone ever had on the USS Enterprise and beyond.